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An Overview of Today's Underpads

Americans over 65 make up over 12.4 percent of the population. With many living longer and requiring long-term care, the use of incontinent products is skyrocketing.

Underpads haven’t changed much in appearance over the last few decades. They retain the same composite i.e. face, soaker and vinyl layers and remain fairly standard in size i.e. 34 x 36. Although in some cases they have been reduced to 30 x 36. But their price and performance has changed. “Prices on underpads are becoming cheaper and more customers want the cheapest pad we offer,” says Sue Vierling, purchasing manager at Phoenix Textile. “We stock about 25 reusable underpads and have developed more "economy" type products to meet this demand.” At Phoenix the low-end pads are becoming top sellers. ‘Fenix,’ their #1 quality pad has been supplanted by the more economical ‘Pebble Beach,’ a bonded underpad. In a bonded pad the vinyl layer, which is usually sewn to the absorbent ‘soaker’ layer to make three layers i.e. face cloth, soaker and vinyl, is now actually coated onto the soaker so that the whole pad becomes a one ply, one layer pad. “Healthcare customers are forced to deal with unrelenting cost containment pressure,” agrees Richard Stewart, VP of Product Management at Standard Textile. His firm has met those concerns by focusing on improved product performance through the introduction of the latest fiber and fabric moisture management technology.

Standard Textile underpads such as the ComPly or Integrity products now contain capillary surface materials and ‘wicking enhancement.’ The former are groups of synthetic fibers that are extruded to have a novel cross section, which means more surface area and channels whereby liquids can be moved. ‘Wicking enhancement’ is a key performance attribute that allows fluids to spread out over a surface. Standard has also incorporated stain resistance chemistry.

“It’s existed for many years but the technology has improved to prevent the stain from sinking in without being totally liquid repellent,” says Stewart. He notes that disposable manufacturers are not so much into fiber technology and use SAPs, super absorbent polymers. These are chemicals that can absorb hundreds of times their own weight but can’t release it once they’ve absorbed it – a definite disadvantage.

Ken Tyler, VP of government operations for Encompass LLC and ARTA board member, believes that more customers are turning to reusables precisely because of those reasons. He sees the main push in reusables from the nursing field.

“That’s because reusables, once demonstrated to the clinical side of a facility, strongly outweigh a disposable in terms of comfort and safety issues i.e. bedsores,” he says. “When you throw add the cost of disposing and storing a disposable product, the cost analysis is clearly in favor of reusables.” A 2006 side-by-side cost analysis conducted by Encompass found that there were savings of $246,545 after one year and $388,865 after two years when using their 'Aurorra' reusable underpad versus a disposable. The ‘Aurorra’ boasts a wrap-knit surface to withstand numerous washes, stain-resistant properties, a super absorbent soaker for quick ‘wicking’ and maximum fluid containment and an impermeable heavy weight barrier for leak protection.

At Cedar Village, a long-term care facility outside Cincinnati, Ohio, Barb Bowen is director of Environmental Services and oversees 160 healthcare residents and 100 assisted living clients.

“We use underpads for anyone who is incontinent,” she explains. “Seventy-five percent of our residents use them.” The pads are placed under patients’ backsides for incontinence and under their shoulders and head for feeding issues. They’re also used to position and help lift residents. “The pads today have less cotton in them now on the top and have more absorbency – they dry more quickly and don’t stain,” says Bowen. “They pull a lot of the incontinent fluids away from the resident and leave the top layer less wet too.”

Over her 30 year career in long-term care Bowen has used both reusable and disposable underpads and has always preferred the former for feel, comfort and size and their longevity. At Cedar Village once a pad has been used at least 100 times, even beyond the point of having their wings trimmed off to make them 30 x 30, they are handed over to maintenance for greasy jobs.

“They can use it as a drop cloth,” says Bowen. “We also give them to our housekeeper to set on carpets or, if we have a stack, we give them to pet owners. The uses go on and on.”

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Ecolab Receives Environmental Stewardship Award

AUSTRIA - An environmental stewardship award was recently given to Ecolab Inc. in Austria in recognition of the their efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of a local hospital laundry. The award is for implementing their PERformance SMART low-temperature at an Austrian hospital. The laundry program is said to reduce water and energy usage, in addition to shortening wash time.