Up to 80% of people with incontinence are wearing the wrong incontinence products, study finds
The vast majority of people wearing incontinence products, or adult diapers, are wearing the wrong products for their needs — leading to illness, discomfort, and loss of dignity, a study finds.
Incontinence is a pervasive health issue that affects a significant portion of the population. According to the National Association for Continence (NAFC), one in five people over 40 experience incontinence, an overactive bladder, or urgency symptoms. Another study by PubMed claims that 50 percent of all nursing home residents are incontinent. And while incontinence is most common in older and elderly adults, people of all ages experience bladder or bowel leakage.
Most people with incontinence are wearing the wrong products
Despite the fact that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 200 million people worldwide experience incontinence, there are limited resources available to help them manage their condition— if patients decide to seek out help at all: 70% of people with incontinence don’t seek help for their problem.
And of those that do begin to wear incontinence products, most aren’t wearing the right product for them; a mistake that can lead to serious health issues down the line.
A study by Finnegan Medical Supply found that 39% of participants wore at least one incorrect incontinence product during a 24 hour period. The NAFC estimates an even higher number, citing that up to 80% of adults with incontinence are wearing the wrong products (and that many people try seven or more products before finding one that works).
Patients need more absorbent products
Of the 375 participants in Finnegan Medical Supply’s study who wore incorrect incontinence supplies or adult diapers, most of them — a whopping 92% — needed to be converted up to a product that was more absorbent. Not a single respondent needed to be converted to a less absorbent product.
Why are so many lower-absorbency products used?
Medical facilities such as nursing homes and hospitals are the largest consumers of adult diapers. Because most of these facilities have regulations in place requiring that patients be changed regularly (as often as every two hours, in many cases), purchasers for these institutions often buy less expensive, less absorbent incontinence products that should, technically, be okay for use when changed frequently, rather than paying more for more absorbent products.
However, multiple studies (1, 2, 3) show that patients in medical facilities are commonly left with soiled incontinence products for longer than recommended, making their less-absorbent incontinence products insufficient to keep them clean and dry between changes.
Adults living at home can also be prone to waiting too long in between changes, whether they are in the care of others or living independently. This often stems from a lack of understanding about what products are right for their needs and what good incontinence products should feel like. For example, some patients may not know that high-absorbency overnight incontinence briefs are required for sleeping, and that a typical daytime incontinence product may not be sufficient.
Wearing the wrong incontinence products has consequences
The right incontinence product can help a person living with loss of bladder or bowel control manage their condition and live an active, full life. The wrong incontinence product, especially products lacking proper absorbency, can lead to restricted social activities, low self-esteem, decreased sense of well-being, depression, and isolation.
The physical consequences of using the wrong products are also very real, and can lead to serious medical problems like loss of skin integrity, urinary tract infections, and Incontinence Associated Dermatitis (IAD).
IAD is considered a major global health risk factor leading to pressure ulcers and severe skin integrity conditions. The skin is damaged when exposed to urine or feces, with skin over-hydration causing the outer layer of skin to swell or break down. This can lead to inflammation, infection, and injury, causing “considerable discomfort while being difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to treat.”
Upgrading to more absorbent products improves quality of life and saves money
Participants in FMS’ study were upgraded from lesser-quality adult diapers to more absorbent Prevail products that matched their individual incontinence needs.
After converting to the more absorbent product, respondents reported a 57% reduction in skin-related health issues, as well as a 14% reduction in pressure injuries.
Simply put: Investing in a higher-quality product is a safer, healthier choice for people living with incontinence.
The study also found that, while the cost-per-unit on more absorbent products is higher, patients could remain clean and dry with fewer products per day, leading to overall savings.