About six months into my new role with a manufacturer of adult incontinence products, I attended a caregiver conference in Orlando, FL, as an exhibitor alongside many assisted living community marketers.

Understanding the U.S. healthcare system’s shift to more person-centered care, I believed that this conference would be a great opportunity to share with these marketers all the many reasons why selecting superior incontinence products would be beneficial for their residents. I made it my goal before the conference to learn more about the communities that my fellow exhibitors represented.

One by one, I approached each of these assisted living community marketing representatives to learn about their current continence care programs, offering and to see whether an opportunity existed for them to lead me to their resident wellness directors, executive directors and/or corporate-level decision-makers. To my surprise, what I heard was that residents and/or their families are responsible for supplying their own incontinence products and, “That’s not something we would be interested in.”

In fact, I clearly remember that less than a minute into a conversation with one sales and marketing director representing an assisted living community, she politely lifted her arms toward me as if to say “stop,” while she proceeded to share with me, “We don’t get involved with that. Our residents supply their own incontinence products.”

Fast forward a year, and I now realize that their responses were not intentionally apathetic. In fact, similar responses run the gamut from other people at all levels of decision-making within some senior living communities. I believe these types of commonplace responses stem from a lack of awareness about the importance of high-quality continence care, social stigmas about incontinence, and a lack of thought about marketing a continence care program to residents. No doubt, they also are tied to senior living’s values of resident independence, privacy and choice, as well as efforts to differentiate themselves from skilled nursing facilities.

Communities can keep residents healthier longer, however, when they limit clinical risk for residents by virtue of the clinical team establishing a continence care program, and choosing what brand of incontinence products will be included in the program, versus residents and/or families bringing inferior products into the community.

A program that includes superior-quality, 100% breathable, super-absorbent products can help reduce the risk of skin breakdowns, urinary tract infections and falls for community residents. Offering a continence care program also has many benefits for caregivers, chiefly, less stress, more time and happier, more engaged residents.

Why? Fewer changes are needed when using more absorbent, high-quality products. That reduction equates to less risk of a caregiver having to leave his or her shift due to a shoulder or back injury. During these unforeseen times of extreme staffing shortages, why would any community take that risk, especially when an option to help guide residents to quality products where risk is minimized is an option?

Also, less time is needed to change soiled sheets, fewer gloves are needed and less intimate contact is needed because of fewer changes. Add in fewer changes with residents who have dementia, who can be averse to intimate contact, and I can’t imagine why a community wouldn’t think about a continence care program in hopes of guiding residents to quality products.

Another benefit to the community? A continence care program also may serve as an additional revenue. As marketing professionals continue to look for their own community key differentiators in what has become an extremely competitive playing field, where every “value add” helps increase occupancy levels, such a program could be worth considering.

Although community social activities, dining and pleasing aesthetics are important, solid medication management, wander management and quality continence care ultimately will keep applicable residents happier and healthier longer. Adult children of aging parents are more educated as consumers than ever before, so being able to have such programs in place and convey their importance is crucial to securing move-ins.

Selecting an incontinence product brand remains a resident’s choice, but they and their families may appreciate guidance. Speaking as a person with an elderly mother, I would be more inclined to write a monthly check knowing that my mother has quality incontinence products that keep her safe and comfortable versus go to a big box store, select products that I know very little about and hope for the best.

Many families of loved ones have no idea about proper sizing, absorbency levels, briefs versus pull-ups, etc. Why would they? Although we now are seeing more commercials and information about incontinence products than ever before, seeing middle-aged people dancing on TV hardly is informative.

For those who have changed sheets, seen skin breakdowns, witnessed an elder socially isolating himself or herself from everyday activities out of fear of embarrassing situations, or have been in crisis mode due to incontinence, more continence care management consideration is needed. Although discussing this topic may be uncomfortable, and although implementing a continence care program requires internal resources, it is a topic that warrants more attention.

Deanna Vigliotta has 30 years of experience in healthcare sales and is a key account manager for the East Coast with Seni. She joined Seni in early 2019 to educate people about adult incontinence products.