Your elderly mother still lives alone, and you love her dearly. But lately you’ve noticed the distinct smell of urine on mom’s clothing and furniture, and you think it may be time for her to try adult diapers. Whenever you approach her about the subject, she immediately gets defensive and cuts you off. What should you do?

For millions of older Americans, urinary incontinence is an inevitable part of the aging process. But due to pride and stubbornness, many seniors ignore its telltale signs while going about their daily activities. For family caregivers, convincing an aging in place elderly parent to wear adult diapers takes patience, understanding and respect.

Why Seniors Refuse to Wear Adult Diapers

The topic of adult diapers is an uncomfortable one that many families choose to ignore. But when it comes to your mom, finding her some sanitary protection for incontinence may be necessary to ensure her health and well-being. To better understand her perspective, here are some of the main reasons why seniors refuse to wear adult diapers:


Most seniors perceive adult diapers as being big, bulky and noticeable through clothing. If they’re still otherwise active outside the home, this can be a major stumbling block.

Diminished Senses

The average person’s senses of sight and smell start diminishing after age 65. As a result, your mom may not be able to smell urine on her clothing or bed linens, or see those unsightly spots on her couch, like you can.


Some seniors suffer from depression because of social isolation, a terminal illness or chronic pain which then causes them to lose interest in their personal hygiene and appearance. If you think that’s the case with your mom, it’s best to schedule an appointment with her doctor.


As their mental acuity declines some elderly persons can simply no longer make sound decisions about their personal hygiene habits. If your mom isn’t suffering from dementia, denial and vanity are more likely the culprits.

Getting Mom to Agree

To get your mother to be more receptive to the idea of wearing adult diapers, try these strategies:

Be Gentle

Gently approach your mother about your concerns, and how noticeable the smell and stains are on her clothing and furniture. Urine left on a senior’s delicate skin can also cause serious irritations, so that’s another angle to use when selling the idea of wearing incontinence protection. If your mother’s olfactory senses aren’t what they used to be, pointing out how easy it is for others to smell the urine may embarrass her enough to take-action.

Avoid the term “diapers”

Let’s face it, most adults equate the term “diapers” with babies. Don’t call them diapers, but instead use terms like “disposable underwear” or “adult briefs”.

Get Some Samples

Many seniors are hesitant to wear adult diapers because they envision bulky, baby-like products that will be obvious to others. Newer absorbent materials have made today’s disposable underwear options lighter and thinner than ever before. Purchase a few samples and then show your mom how unnoticeable and comfortable they would be.

Seek Outside Assist