Changing sheets and bedding due to a loved one’s incontinence is a challenging task for any caregiver. No one likes to wash and change sheets daily, and a wet bed can be physically and emotionally taxing for both caregivers and older adults.
Having a strategy and the right products, however, can go a long way to keep a bed dry and your loved one comfortable.
Change bed linens regularly
For health and safety, accidents should be managed right away. For bedridden individuals, aim to change protectors, sheets and other bedding every two to three days. Talk with your loved one about bed sheet fabrics: Is the fabric soft enough? Does it keep them warm (or perhaps too warm)? Don’t forget blankets and comforters: They may not need to be changed as often as bedsheets, but launder these regularly.
Whether your loved one has a medical condition like incontinence, or would benefit from easier-to-manage bedding products (like fitted sheets), choose brands that use waterproof fabrics for instant cleanup, or zippered products for ease of use.
Create protective bedding layers
When making the bed, create layers: Start with a waterproof mattress protector, followed by a waterproof mattress pad, and then a fitted sheet. Experts recommend alternating several layers of pads and fitted sheets. Flat sheets and blankets complete the setup.
If your older adult has an accident, get the person up, cleaned off and into fresh nightclothes. Senior skin can be sensitive, so cleaning them immediately will keep your loved one protected. Next, pull off the soiled blankets, top sheet and mattress pad. This is where layers will save the day. Get the person back into a fresh bed immediately and cover them with a clean top sheet and blanket without having to struggle with fully making a bed.
Health and time-saving tips:
- Prepack small duffle or shoulder bags with everything you might need, such as incontinence pads, wipes, gloves, change of underwear, and other supplies.
- Get product recommendations from a doctor, pharmacist or occupational therapist.
- Keep two additional flat sheets and blankets folded near the bed along with a spare set of nightclothes.
- Make sure your loved one is using the right absorption products. Experts say 80% of people experiencing adult incontinence are using the wrong products—and many try seven or more brands until discovering those that work.
Bedding products for incontinence management
The following bedding elements and products will keep the mattress dry, speed cleanup and keep your loved one comfortable:
Zippered waterproof mattress protector
This is the foundation layer: Protection is the goal as it’s difficult to remove lingering odors from mattresses that can be expensive to replace.
A top seller on Amazon, Linenspa’s waterproof protector zips around the mattress with hooded Velcro flaps, creating a tight seal. The company also offers pillow and box spring products.
Slumber Cloud’s Core mattress protector puts heat mitigation at the forefront. Built into a soft layer of waterproof fabric, NASA-approved temperature-regulation technology cools while shielding mattresses from dirt and spills.
Waterproof mattress cover
Use this as a second layer: It’s a softer but still waterproof cover that tops the mattress protector. From organic, down alternatives to most waterproof, you’ll find one to fit your budget.
The SafeRest mattress cover blocks fluids from reaching the mattress protector and is free of vinyl, PVC and phthalates.
A best overall pick is the ViscoSoft Copper Mattress Pad. Testers liked the topper for its copper-infused technology designed to relieve back, neck and hip pain.
Waterproof, five-layer peel-off and zippered fitted sheets
Options to replace standard fitted sheets (which can be challenging to wrestle on and off) for the third layer, include Peel Offs by HDIS, a fitted sheet with five peel-away layers made from a special blend of breathable fibers. Designed to be used for seven to 10 days, the top layer is removed to reveal a clean layer below.
Beddy’s designed a suite of zippered products including their all-in-one fitted sheets. The company integrated a clever sewn-in top sheet, and the hybrid top layer can be completely zipped off for easy laundering. Each set comes with two matching pillowcases and shams.
For a waterproof option, thePiccoCasa Velvet Waterproof Fitted Sheet features a soft, breathable finish. The waterproof fabric resists liquids and can be machine-washed and tumble-dried.
For extra protection, disposable pads can be used on top of both fitted and flat sheets.
Often referred to as Chux, bed mats or sheet protectors, NorthShore disposable underpads are available in a wide selection of absorbencies, sizes and price ranges.
Use blankets instead of bedspreads
These are easier to wash in the event of an accident, rather than a single, heavier comforter or bedspread. The Sleep Foundation’s top picks include blankets in a range of fabrics like bamboo, cotton, wool, down, fleece and acrylic. Products were rated using multiple criteria including temperature tolerance for both hot and cold sleepers.
Their best all-season pick is by Luxome. Thinner than a traditional comforter, the breathable, quilted blanket is made from a thermal-regulating bamboo viscose fabric.
For best value, the gray and white Puffy blanket complements all decors and features a reversible 100% hypoallergenic polyester design in faux fur and micro mink.
Mulberry Park Silks sheets and pillowcases are spun from 100% mulberry silk, a superior, health-giving fiber that’s great for older adults. The natural fiber contains sericin, a protein that keeps hair and skin well-moisturized, is smooth and friction-free (making it gentle on skin without being “slippery”), and is naturally hypoallergenic. Silk is breathable, moisture wicking, and temperature regulating, keeping sleepers warm in winter and cool in summer. They’re also easy to care for: Just toss in the washer.
Coming to terms with incontinence
Incontinence can be an emotionally loaded topic. It will be easier for you and your loved one if you make incontinence care as natural as possible. Above all, seek help from family and friends – or paid help if possible – so you’re not facing the challenge alone.