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Do you struggle with keeping disposable underwear on your incontinent aging parent? You are not alone! Discover why this is such a problem and how to handle it.
Incontinence is an unfortunately common part of aging. Equally unfortunate for caregivers of aging parents is the problem of our parent balking at the idea of wearing incontinence protection. Whether it’s disposable pads or underwear or full-on adult diapers, keeping your parent properly covered will t one point or another become your struggle.
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The Battle of Incontinence Underwear
I actually knew of my MIL’s incontinence long before I became her primary caregiver. My MIL enjoyed the freedom of no underwear for most of her adult life. Bathroom accidents were a daily occurrence in the home.
Once I became her caregiver it became an important part of my daily life to keep my MIL in protective underwear. This continues to be a struggle.
Why is this even an issue?
It seems so easy to our minds doesn’t it? You have an incontinence problem. A lot of aging adults have this same issue for a multitude of reasons. Our reasoning tells us disposable underwear is the solution.
- You avoid embarrassment.
- Your outer garments stay clean and dry.
- Family and friends are spared your bathroom accidents on floors and furniture.
Why then, do our aging parents put up such a fuss?
Your parent has suffered a great deal of loss probably in a very short amount of time. Certain physical abilities, freedom and independent living, their home and memories, parts of their very identity are no longer theirs.
This makes their incontinence just another loss and the protective underwear yet another reminder of their slowly dying bodies. Furthermore, your reminders to put on protective underwear continues to remind them of their need for you.
Add that to a decline in logic and reasoning and you have a daily battle on your hands just to keep your parent healthy and dry.
Fight that Battle
There are some things as a sandwiched homemaker that I can let slide, but bathroom accidents are just not going to fly, particularly with young children running about.
- It’s gross. To think that at any moment my children might run through puddles of urine or step in feces makes me shudder.
- It’s unhealthy. Sitting in urine and feces cause disease and discomfort for your aging parent. My MIL is already at high risk for yeast infections. Sitting in constant moisture makes it nearly impossible to keep them at bay.
- It stinks. Have you ever walked into a home and realized immediately upon entry that they have pets? The smell becomes all you remember about the home and often becomes your excuse for not visiting. Nursing homes are the same. The smell of ammonias (both good and bad) threaten to suffocate making your hasty departure all the more necessary. Bottom line: No one’s home needs to smell like a toilet.
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Five Tips to Keep Your Incontinent Parent in Disposable Underwear
When picking your battles of caregiving, The Battle of Protective Underwear is a worthy one. It is vital not only to your mental and physical preservation but also to the health and wellbeing of your entire multigenerational family. Use these five tips to keep your incontinent aging parent in their disposable underwear.
Insist on your assistance.
Don’t make a big deal about it. Just calmly say, “Let’s change/put on your underwear.” You’re not asking them to make the decision. Taking away the choice eliminates confusion and instills confidence in your aging parent. Your calming and business-like presence puts them at ease.
Throw away anything that isn’t protective.
This was a vital step in getting my MIL to wear protective underwear. Often she would put “regular” underwear on and then be terribly confused when she still had an accident on the floor. getting rid of everything but the disposable underwear makes it a non-issue.
Make the disposable underwear constantly available.
My MIL never has to go farther than a few steps to find her incontinence briefs. I keep the disposable underwear anywhere I think she will look. It’s always available on the bathroom vanity, the back of the toilet, her bedside table, in her dresser drawer, and in the closet. If I need to be particularly obvious, I will leave some on her bed.
Offer bribes and incentives.
My MIL is highly motivated by food. When I know she’s had on the same underwear for a while or suspect she has none on at all, I simply tell her as soon as she changes she will have a snack or meal. Offering these incentives takes the focus off the negative chore and gives her something positive to look forward to.
Make it routine.
Become consistent in your reminders. Until it became habit for me, I set my phone up to notify me every hour to either remind my MIL to use the bathroom or to ask if she has protective underwear on. Every time my MIL comes into the main living spaces I ask about her underwear. While this seems micromanaging to some, it is necessary.
- The protective underwear is extremely effective and unless soaked through it is difficult to feel the need to change. Once soaked, it’s no longer protective.
- My MIL doesn’t always remember the reasons she’s leaving a room. Often she will be headed to the bathroom or wet the bed but by the time she gets out to me she’s forgotten her purpose.
Finally, whenever I’m helping her change clothes we put on new incontinence underwear. Her argument is often that she’s not wet but I always remind her that everyone changes their underwear.
Related Post: What Does Parenting Your Parents Really Mean?
Attitude makes a difference.
Never embarrass your aging parent when reminding them to use the bathroom or use protective underwear. Consider your parent’s personality with your approach. If they enjoy humor, try making a joke about it. For the more sensitive personality, be understanding and empathetic.
When they have an accident, whether they were wearing underwear or not, stay calm. Clean up the mess, help them into dry clothes, and move on. The quickest way to make an accident into an incident is to make a big deal out of it.
Remember, this is just part of their aging and is not a purposeful attack on you. Showing kindness will go a long way in avoiding bitter confrontations for both of you.
Top Incontinence Protection Products
Did you like this post? How do you handle your aging parent’s incontinence? Let me know in the comments below!
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