Adult diapers, a gift of convenience

Adult diapers, a gift of convenience

Adult diapers are necessary accessories among a certain section of the society, but is still a muted subject in our country. In a culture like ours, where bodily waste and its disposal is taken casually, awareness about adult diapers, their uses, availability and disposal is mostly confined to hospitals, medical communities, patients and their families. The topic is as important as the building of toilets, towards an open-defecation-free society and upholding menstrual hygiene, in our march towards a Swachh Bharat.

Diapers meant for people larger in size than infants and toddlers are known as adult diapers and they come handy in various situations. They are used by people with long duty hours like pilots and astronauts during landings and take-offs and are called Maximum Absorbency Garments and by swimmers (containment swim briefs), an alternative to toilet use on a regular basis or during travel, (according to a Chinese report, it is a popular way to reduce long queues before toilets during travelling seasons), execution diapers for those on death rows that are meant to contain body fluids during and after death, and even those who land up in hospitals in drunken comas. For the sick, bed-ridden and old patients with cognitive impairments like dementia who cannot discern the need to use the toilet and for those with physical infirmities who are unable to access toilets independently in time, and in conditions like incontinence and diarrhoea, diaper use is not just a question of comfort and dignity for the users but that of convenience and ease for caretakers as well.

Like many other hygiene-related accessories, adult diapers are an urban phenomenon unknown to their rural areas who take care of the needs of their sick, old and bedridden with bedpans and rags.

The Indian geriatric population recorded a jump of 35.5 per cent from 7.6 crores in 2001 to 10.4 in 2011 and is poised to touch 32.5 crores in 2050. This, along with the fact that patient care is a strenuous task, makes diapers an important part of patient hygiene.

Awareness, availability and affordability are the cornerstones of mass popularity of any product. Anil Joseph of We Care Health Solutions claims that adult diapers are available in close to 80% of medical shops, supermarkets and online shopping portals with foreign brands of vying with local brands. Yet, compared to sanitary napkins and child diapers, advertisements on adult diapers are hard to come by; so are promotional incentives and concessions in pricing. In terms of quantity and variety of brands too, the choice is scanty on the shopping shelves. Japan with its growing market for adult diapers conducted, the world’s first All-Diaper-Fashion-Show in 2008 raising awareness about them.

Made of absorbent polymer with bio-degradable plastic, pull-up panties suitable for mobile patients and stick-up types made for the bed-ridden are generally available. Cost is another factor inhibiting their widespread use. Though unbranded imported adult diapers are sold in bulk in ‘grey markets’ for a cheaper price, their quality and safety are questionable. A good quality adult diaper costs Rs 30 to 40 compared to a child nappy priced at Rs 12 and sanitary pad for Rs 6 approximately. This just adds to the medical costs of the patient. A medical shop owner narrated how a dementia patient’s family uses the more affordable sanitary napkin for the patient instead of diapers.

Indigenous eco-friendly material used in the production of adult diapers could bring down their costs. Recently eco-friendly, chemical-free, bio-degradable, plastic-less sanitary pads using highly absorbable banana fibre made the news.

Use of diapers by physically and mentally healthy to be able to urinate anywhere and any time without real needs should be discouraged to ensure a fair price and sufficient supply for those who genuinely need them.

Waste generation is always the by-product of any disposable product. In this connection, Japan’s adult diaper market, which became a source of alternative fuel is worth mentioning. The year 2010 saw Japan turning its shredded, dried, sterilised diaper waste into fuel pellets for boilers.

Their availability and accessibility could be increased if they are sold in places like clinics, hospitals, railway stations, bus stops and eateries. Let accessible hygiene bring new hope to India greying India!

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