Approximately 35% of adults aged 65 or over worldwide suffer from some form of incontinence. For these individuals, incontinence supplies to help them manage the problem with confidence and security is a huge step towards maintaining a satisfactory quality of like. These products will help them to continue enjoying their favourite activities with less risk of distraction or embarrassment.

Incontinence Pads

Incontinence pads are among the most widely used products for managing urinary incontinence. Also known as bladder control pads, they are worn inside regular underwear to soak up urine. Many of these pads attach directly to the underwear with which they are worn, courtesy of an adhesive strip along one side.

Based on technology similar to that used in baby nappies, these adult incontinence products utilize a hydrophobic (or absorbent) layer. This layer draws urine away from the surface of the pad, thus keeping the wearer’s skin dry.

These types of incontinence products are a good option for individuals suffering from mild to moderate urinary incontinence. They are usable by either men or women and can be purchased in most pharmacies and health care stores. They offer high levels of discretion but at the expense of a lighter level of protection.

Male Guards

These products are a type of pad but (unlike the insertion pads discussed above) are uniquely designed for the male anatomy. The key distinguishing feature is a tapered end to the pad for more efficient collection of urine.

As with insertion pads, they offer a high level of privacy but can only handle moderate to light urine leakage.

Briefs & Protective Underwear

Briefs & protective underwear (sometimes also called adult diapers) are another popular category of incontinence supplies. They can both be alternatively described as forms of absorbent underwear.

Unlike pads, they are meant to replace regular underwear instead of being worn inside it. Like insertion pads, they use a highly absorbent hydrophobic layer to “wick” moisture away from the skin and keep it dry. This is an important factor in maintaining optimal long term skin health.

These products can also be classified as either belonging to the disposable underwear category or being reusable products.

Elderly woman examining an adult diaper. Diapers like these are among the most popularly used incontinence supplies.
Senior woman looking at a diaper

Many of these products also incorporate features to optimize ventilation so that air can flow freely through the material, keeping the user dry and comfortable. The high quality products will also include features to reduce leakage around the legs and to mitigate unpleasant odours.

Although pads and diapers are easily purchased at most pharmacies and health stores, it is advisable to check with a doctor before deciding to use one. There may be other ways to manage an incontinence problem before opting for one of these products.

Our page on incontinence includes suggestions on the various ways that this condition can be treated or managed.

Difference Between Protective Underwear & Adult Briefs

Some of you may be wondering about the difference(s) between these two categories of incontinence supplies.

They are both designed to replace regular underwear and fit under regular clothing. However, briefs have higher levels of absorbency and also tend to boast larger coverage areas.

Protective underwear tends to have a larger absorbency area than insertion pads and so can protect against larger leakage volumes. However, they in general will protect only against urinary incontinence and against moderate to medium leakage levels.

Protective underwear is also designed with both comfort and incontinence protection in mind.

Briefs, on the other hand, can protect against either urinary or fecal incontinence. In this aspect, they are unique among the various categories of incontinence supply product. They have even higher levels of absorbency than protective underwear and also boast larger coverage areas.

Generally speaking, the focus of adult briefs is much more on protecting against both urinary and fecal incontinence and less on wearing comfort and discretion.

Booster Pads

This category of incontinence product is not designed for use by itself. Instead, it is designed to be partnered with another category of incontinence product such as protective underwear and function as an additional layer of protection. They do not have waterproof protection. Instead, this must be supplied by the product with which they are used.

In addition to protective underwear, booster pads are used with insertion pads or male guards. However, unlike insertion pads, they cannot be used with regular underwear as the latter do not have any absorbency.

Other Incontinence Supplies

An important aspect of managing incontinence is the protection of skin health. Excessive contact with the skin of urine can have several adverse consequences. The condition is known in medical circles as incontinence- associated dermatitis.

As a consequence, another important category of incontinence supplies comprises products needed to take care of the skin. Washcloths, soap free skin cleansers and moisturizing creams are all important products in this category.

Which Incontinence Supplies Are Right For Me?

When choosing incontinence supplies, you will need to match the amount, frequency and type of leakage you experience with the absorbency level of the product you are considering.

We suggest keeping the following things foremost in your mind:

  1. The most important factor is your intended quality of life. This can itself be a function of many things, including your personal dignity, your physical comfort and the freedom to pursue your favourite activities with confidence.
  2. Do not exclude the possibility of using different types of incontinence product depending on the occasion. At some times (during a game of golf, for example) , you may treasure privacy and freedom of movement above everything else. At other times (during sleep) , you may be looking for comfort and freedom from dryness as a matter of priority. So your intended lifestyle will be an important factor to bear in mind.
  3. Do not neglect the importance of choosing the correct size for your incontinence supplies. The right size of brief, underwear or pad will help to minimize the risk of leakage, particularly around the legs. That in turn will improve long term skin health and mitigate the infection risk. Another thing to bear in mind is the fact that the patient’s size requirements can change as he or she gains or loses weight. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to choose the correct size of garment or pad and redo the measurements frequently if the patient is rapidly gaining or losing weight.
  4. As important as it is to choose the correct size, choosing the correct amount and type of absorbency is just as important. It is sometimes felt that a larger size means greater absorbency but that is not the case. Additionally, just as with size, absorbency needs can change over time in response to changes in the frequency and/or size of leaks.