Diapers: They’re not just for babies

I received a call a few days ago from a woman looking for some source of assistance for her brother who suffered from incontinence and had to wear what are commonly known as adult diapers.  Our posts on this blog have tended to address the diaper need that affects babies and their families; however, many adults, particularly seniors living on limited incomes, suffer from incontinence.  Many of these people have difficulty affording adult incontinence supplies and diapers.  And their lives, and those of their families and loved ones, are adversely affected by the lack of access to incontinence supplies.

Urinary incontinence affects approximately 13 million persons in the United States, with as many as 25 million experiencing transient or ongoing incontinence.  Most of these people are older adults, many of whom may be living on limited incomes with limited buying power once medical expenses are factored in.  In addition, many disabled people are obliged to wear diapers for a variety of reasons, incontinence and inability to use a bathroom unaided among the most common.

Often, people dealing with incontinence problems are among those who have the fewest resources.  According to the Cornell University Online Resource for U.S. Disability Statistics in 2009, an estimated 26.4% percent of the population between 21 and 64 with a disability had incomes below the poverty line.  These numbers only include people with disabilities who are living independently, either alone or with family – not those who are institutionalized and have greater access to care.  According to the U.S. Census Current Population Survey in 2010 9% of adults 65 and older lived below the federal poverty line. However, using the U.S. Census Bureau’s alternative measurement of poverty, as many as 16.1% of U.S. seniors are living in poverty once medical care and other costs of living are factored in.  Elderly Americans spend on average 19% of their total income on out-of-pocket medical expenses annually. Out-of-pocket expenses include health insurance premiums, medical copayments, and prescriptions.  Once those costs are paid, however, many seniors are unable to pay for critical services.

Many insurance programs and Medicare programs will not pay for adult diapers, particularly if the incontinence is not diagnosed as a separate medical condition.  Even when it is identified as a separate condition, some state run Medicare will not pay for diapers even if they pay for other supplies.  (You can find your state’s coverage by using this link and finding Urological supplies.)

It is estimated that by 2015 one in four Americans will be over the age of 65. At a time when communities need to be building infrastructure and planning to care for our increasing aging populations, services are instead being reduced for even the lowest-income seniors.

In “A Report to the Community,” the Community Needs Assessment Process 2006–2009 Area Plan on Aging report, Pima Council on Aging, an Arizona Senior Service Agency, identified as major problem areas for their community “lack of sufficient income to meet basic needs; lack of transportation and affordable health care, including dental care; need for in-home support, including home maintenance and repair; isolation and need for advocacy. The overriding concern of seniors is to find ways in which to continue living in their own homes for as long as possible.”  According to the National Association for Continence, incontinence is the second leading reasons for institutionalization of the elderly in nursing homes and 53% of homebound older persons are incontinent.

Many diaper banks provide incontinence supplies for adults.  The supplies distributed by local diaper banks through their partner organizations are part of a larger continuum of services that not only supports older adults in remaining in their own homes, but also contributes to their dignity and quality of life. If not for a diaper bank’s monthly incontinent supply donations to their partner agencies many local community’s elderly would be unable to leave their homes to due to fear of embarrassment, and would live in compromised comfort even while at home.  Many diaper banks provide monthly incontinent supply donations to their partner agencies because the local community’s disabled would suffer decreased quality of life, ranging from constant discomfort due to accidents to being unable to leave their homes.

Adult incontinent supplies are not donated as often as baby diapers and cost a great deal more.  As a result, diaper banks sometimes have trouble maintaining a reliable supply of adult diapers.   Consider donating to your local diaper bank to help them acquire the incontinence supplies that could make a meaningful improvement in the quality of life for a disabled person or an older person.  If you do not have a diaper bank nearby, consider donating to the National Diaper Bank Network.

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