Why won’t your aging parent wear adult diapers?

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We know why an aging parent should wear adult diapers; incontinence. But why won’t they? Believe it or not, it may have a lot to do with the word diaper; what it means and what it represents. This word is more often than not associated with children who have yet to learn to use the toilet properly. A common mistake among caregivers is to treat their loved ones as if they were children. And as many caregivers have found the hard way, that’s the shortest way to not get things done. If you treat them like children, chances are they will react accordingly – that is, they won’t be very compliant.

Instead of diaper, try using synonyms such as brief or pad. As Fred Astaire put it to Ginger Rogers (or was it the other way around?) “you like to-may-toes and I like to-mah-toes.” It’s amazing the difference that simple word can make; consider Groucho Marx’s “time flies like an arrow, and fruit flies like a banana.” The same word can have different meanings; however, a different word can also have different results. In this case, substituting brief or pad for diaper can be the difference between your aging parent wearing their incontinence undergarment – or at least make it easier, which is in and of itself an accomplishment.

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Of course, it would be overly simplistic to chalk this one up to a matter of nomenclature. The definition of a word is not the same as its meaning. And for aging parents, having to wear adult diapers at the behest of their own children means the reversal of roles that have been well established since the dawn of time. It’s the parent who cares for the child, not the other way around. The opposite goes against the very laws of nature; it would be like a good Turk walking to the left instead of the right. This is why asking a non-family member third party – such as doctor or a friend – to talk to the parent on behalf of the son may help the former cope better now that the shoe is on the other foot – or that the diaper is on the other, well, you know.

In addition to etymological issues and primal instincts, feelings and emotions may also play a big part. Your aging parent may be embarrassed to wear diapers; even more embarrassed than they are of wetting or soiling themselves, as strange as that may sound. It’s like Kate Winslet’s character in The Reader, who preferred to let people believe that she allowed 300 Jewish women to burn to death rather than let on that she didn’t know how to read. If that is the case, then all you have left to do is try to get your parent to choose the lesser of two evils – or tip them off to the fact that they are malodorous, if they happen to have a diminished sense of smell and can’t tell themselves.

An even worse case scenario is that the elderly person doesn’t mind the word diaper, or the role reversal, or isn’t embarrassed, but is simply too depressed to care one way or another. In such a case, there would be an underlying problem that would need to be addressed by a physician. In that sense, it’s not such a bad idea that refusal to wear adult diapers prompts a visit to a healthcare provider. After all, there may be a lot more going on under the surface than it appears. 

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