How to Persuade a Senior to Wear Adult Diapers

If you are the caregiver for a senior suffering from incontinence, you face a unique set of challenges. Among them may be issues convincing your senior loved of the need to wear adult diapers. A recurring issue faced by caregivers of senior men and women is that associated with the need for adult diapers. In this article, we discuss tips to consider when it comes to persuading a senior to wear adult diapers.

Facts and Stats About Senior Incontinence

The reality is that senior incontinence is a major issue in the United States in this day and age. More than 50 percent of seniors in the U.S.A. are afflicted with incontinence, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We found that half the population experienced urinary leakage or accidental bowel leakage, and about 25 percent had moderate, severe, or very severe urinary leakage. And about 8 percent had moderate, severe or very severe bowel leakage,” said lead researcher Yelena Gorina, a statistician at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.”

Incontinence occurs for a variety of reasons. These include situations in which muscles are too weak or too active. If muscles are too active, there may be a strong urge to go to the bathroom. There are other causes of incontinence as well. These include prostate problems and nerve damage.

Dr. Tomas Griebling, a professor of urology at the University of Kansas and a spokesman for the American Urology Association, said incontinence increases with age. However, he adds that “incontinence should not be considered either a normal or inevitable part of aging.”

The CDC notes that there is a significant expense linked with incontinence. For example, the average cost associated with bowel incontinence was estimated at $4,100 per person. The National Center for Health Statistics report was published in the CDC’s Vital and Health Statistics.

Consider the Importance of Word Choices

Words matter. This includes when discussing matters associated with incontinence. Finding effective and respectful ways to talk to elderly parents about incontinence is an understandable challenge. One step to make such a conversation easier is to avoid using the word “diaper.” In reality, an adult of any age is apt to be repelled by the word “diaper” used in context with their needs. They have a good reason for being repelled. The word “diaper” is typically associated with babies or toddlers who have yet to be toilet trained. What adult is pleased to have this word applied to their situation?

The bottom line is that diapers are for babies and toddlers. No adult, regardless of their level of physical or mental disability, should be treated as if they are a baby. Aging and age-related issues already have the propensity to rob our loved ones of much of their independence and dignity. Our word choices and tone of voice may seem insignificant. However, communicating and providing care in ways that help our loved ones feel dignified is crucial. This particularly is the case when promoting cooperation and boosting self-esteem.

In the overall scheme of things, it is vital to refer to adult incontinence products with age-appropriate terms. Think about briefs, pads, underpants, pull-ups, or brand names. The goal is to ensure you use respectful terminology. By doing so, you will have mastered the first step toward getting a senior to wear incontinence protection. Using respectful, age-appropriate language will remind you that you are caring for an adult who deserves to be treated concerning preserving his or her dignity.

Understand Why Seniors Refuse Incontinence Underwear

There is an array of reasons why seniors refuse to wear incontinence underwear. By understanding these underlying reasons, you are in a better position to persuade a senior loved one to wear incontinence underwear. We take a moment to discuss some of these reasons, which include:

  • Diminished senses of sight and smell
  • Depression
  • Cognitive Decline

Diminished Senses of Sight and Smell

As people are, their senses diminish, at least to some degree. Consequently, seniors may lack awareness of how smelly and soiled their clothing or furniture may be at this time. Even if a senior acknowledges that they’ve had an accident, they may downplay it. They continue wearing the same clothing when it desperately needs to be laundered. Because they don’t realize the full impact that incontinence has on their appearance and presentation, they may truly feel that incontinence protection is unnecessary. This can be especially if they do not leave their home or have visitors often.


Depression is another reason why seniors refuse incontinence underwear. Often, when people suffer from depression, they lose interest in personal care and grooming. Thus, if an older loved one refuses to use incontinence underwear, the prime reason may be that he or she suffers from depression.

Cognitive Decline

If denial, obliviousness, and depression are not factors in a senior’s refusal to use incontinence products, a dementia screening might be in order. If the cognitive decline is a factor, a senior may no longer be capable of making sound decisions about using incontinence products. The appropriate step in such a situation is to make an appointment with a doctor for an appropriate cognitive health screening.

Determine the Underlying Cause or Causes of “Accidents”

If incontinence becomes an occasional issue, it is important for your senior loved one to see their doctor. Early intervention can be highly important when an individual begins to experience occasional incontinence. Keep in mind that occasional incontinence may be caused by something straightforward. This can include a urinary tract infection or an underlying condition like a prostate problem in men or a pelvic organ prolapse in women.  

After testing to determine the nature or type of incontinence a senior loved one is experiencing, a doctor may be able to recommend something like pelvic floor exercises, minor surgical procedures, or even medications that can help manage incontinence symptoms.  

Sometimes, a second opinion from a urologist is a wise course. For seniors experiencing fecal incontinence, you should make an appointment with a gastroenterologist. Adult briefs and other protection might be unnecessary if you can identify and treat the cause of a loved one’s symptoms.

Address Incontinence Denial Directly

There are instances in which seniors are cognitively sound but prefer to live in denial about this new development in their health. In some instances, they are tied to their sense of vanity. In reality, pride keeps us in denial about many age-related changes. U.S. culture is guilty of ageism. This can result in a situation where many people go to extremes to appear as though they are winning what is, in reality, a losing battle against time.

Understandably, incontinence is difficult to accept. However, if a senior needs incontinence products like briefs, you can convince your senior loved that it’s much more embarrassing to smell like urine than it is to wear proper protection. Promise your senior loved one that you will work to find a comfortable, absorbent, and low-profile solution that will enable your loved one to maintain their dignity, extend their independence, and improve their appearance and presentation. Incontinence frequently causes seniors to withdraw and become less active to avoid embarrassing situations. Ultimately, this doesn’t have to be the state of affairs.

Seek Support From Doctor or Trusted Friend

Another tactic to consider when it comes to a senior who refuses to use proper incontinence products is to seek support from a doctor or trusted friend. A senior’s physician may prove helpful in persuading that person to use incontinence products. Similarly, perhaps a senior has a trusted friend or family member who might help encourage the use of incontinence products.

When All Else Fails, Let Senior Work It Out

Finally, unless a senior has experienced a cognitive decline that renders the person no longer competent, a senior is in charge of his or her life and daily choices. There are situations in which we must leave people alone to work out their problems. In time, they stop resisting and tackle them head-on.