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Managing Incontinence for a loved one in Assisted Living

A growing number of family caregivers are managing incontinence and incontinence supplies for loved ones in Assisted Living or Continuing Care Communities. Parentgiving serves residents living within Assisted Living facilities and also serves Assisted Living facilities who prefer to “white label” incontinence services as a service offering to residents. From our unique perspective and deep dive into serving the Assisted Living community from all angles, we have developed a greater understanding of how residents within these communities are best served. Here are some of our recommendations:

  1. Get to know the caregivers and care manager for your loved one in Assisted Living. They should be able to share how the facility helps the resident manage incontinence, and take into consideration skin health, and budgetary limits on how much will be spent on incontinence supplies per month. Some of the factors that affect your loved one’s incontinence are:
    • how many times the resident is being changed
    • when and if leaks occur
    • how the ALF caregivers are helping the resident to manage incontinence overnight
    • what medications are affecting the resident’s incontinence
    • mobility concerns (lack of mobility obviously can affect the ability of a loved one to get to the bathroom in a timely fashion)
  2. More changes per day = less absorbent diapers/briefs/underwear to purchase. Superabsorbent products (30 oz + of void capacity) are very popular in aging at home environments – these superabsorbent products cost more on a per piece basis, but equate to less changes per day. In an Assisted Living environment, its not uncommon to see caregivers administering up to six to eight changes per day. With a higher frequency of changes, it is not necessary to purchase superabsorbent products when “value” selections will stretch your dollars much further.
  3. Use Booster Pads for Overnight Use and for Male “Leakers”. A booster pad is simply an additional layer of absorption material that works inside of a traditional pull-up or diaper. Booster pads can add an additional 8 – 14 ozs of absorption material and transform a value diaper into a superabsorbent diaper for overnight use – and the caregivers should know to only use Booster Pads for nighttime use. From our in-service training sessions with top incontinence manufacturers, we have also learned that a Booster Pad can be wrapped around the tip of a male’s penis to deflect a void back into the diaper – an effective tactic for dealing with Male side-sleepers who are prone to leaking.
  4. Don’t use Mass Market Brands found at the MegaMart or Drugstore down the street. To stretch any family’s hard-earned dollar and for the assisted living caregivers who must use the supplies provided, Parentgiving can recommend any number of higher quality products that will better serve all involved, and that will cost less. Simply put, CPG brands at the MegaMart put dollars into advertising and shelf space – not into the absorbency or quality of their products. Many caregivers come to us highly frustrated with the performance of CPG and store brands – that is the single most cited reason for new customers coming to Parentgiving.
  5. Write your incontinence directives on a piece of posterboard and tape it to where the incontinence supplies are stored. This dovetails with getting to know your loved one’s caregivers (#1 above) and ensures that your directives are plainly communicated for any new staff or nighttime staff.
  6. Speak up if you notice “shrinkage” of your loved one’s incontinence supplies. We know that sometimes staff within Assisted Living facilities will “borrow” supplies from an adjacent resident room – rather than walking down the hall to a supplies closet. If this becomes the standard operating procedure, then you are subsidizing your loved one’s neighbors. That is why we encourage talking to the caregivers (#1) and putting out instructions (#5) and sharing your observations if supplies are going missing.
  7. Keep track of how much incontinence supplies are being used on a daily / weekly / monthly basis. For a resident with full-time incontinence that requires six changes per day (each change entails a new diaper/underwear + wipes + gloves), the cost can easily exceed $200 - $300 per month. A resident who has light incontinence and/or only nighttime incontinence can budget their monthly spend to under $100 per month.
  8. Set up incontinence suppliers to ship on auto-reorder when possible. Once you understand how the Assisted Living caregivers are applying the incontinence products you are purchasing for your loved one, and you are keeping track of order/usage per month – set-up auto reordering – it will be easier for all involved. We do hear from Assisted Living facilities frustrated with families for not ordering enough supplies, or not ordering on a timely basis.