How to Change an Adult Diaper: A Step-by-Step Guide

Brianna Maguire

Written by Brianna Maguire on Tue Mar 12 2024.

How to Change an Adult Diaper: A Step-by-Step Guide

If it’s your first time caring for someone who needs adult diapers with tabs, the changing process can seem intimidating. Maybe your loved one is coming home from a long-term care facility, maybe your teenager has grown out of their youth diapers, or maybe your loved one is experiencing heavy incontinence for the first time. Regardless, our Caregiving Specialists are here to help you become a pro with our guide on how to change an adult diaper.

What products do I need to change my loved one’s adult diaper?

Before changing your loved one’s adult diapers, you will need:

  • Tab-style briefs - Tab-style briefs are absorbent incontinence products that open at the sides. These are ideal for:

  • Bedridden or immobile loved ones

  • Those with very heavy or bowel incontinence

  • Bariatric loved ones wearing sizes larger than 2XL

  • Hygienic wipes - Adult hygienic wipes are extra large, pre-moistened cloths used to cleanse your loved one. Two times the size of baby wipes, these offer a fresh, refreshing clean, while protecting caregivers’ hands from incontinence. Depending on your needs, you may want to look for features like:

  • Scented versus fragrance-free - For a fresher scent, aim for a scented wipe. For loved ones with sensitive skin, fragrance-free tends to be best.

  • Non-flushable versus flushable - Since you’ll be changing your loved one’s briefs, you’ll likely want to stick with a non-flushable variety. These tend to be sturdier and less likely to tear.

  • Gloves - Gloves promote safety and cleanliness while changing a loved one and come in three varieties:

  • Nitrile - Extremely durable and less likely to tear, but more expensive than the other options

  • Latex - Durable and cost-effective, but not ideal for those with latex allergies

  • Vinyl - Most economical choice, good for caregivers changing multiple products per day that need something cost effective

  • Barrier cream or cleansing cream, if needed

Remember that the key to managing a loved one’s incontinence is having the right products. Not sure which tab-style briefs, gloves, or wipes are right for your loved one’s unique needs? Give our friendly Care Team a call at 855-855-1666 for a custom recommendation, or check out our incontinence products guide to get started.

How to Change a Bedridden Loved One’s Adult Diaper

Start by removing the existing incontinence product

  1. For many caregivers, especially if you haven’t changed many adult briefs in the past, it helps to start by resting your loved one on a disposable underpad. These absorbent pads will capture any moisture or mess that would otherwise spill out during a diaper change, protecting your furniture.

  2. Be sure your loved one is resting on their back, on top of the disposable underpad.

  3. Unstick the tabs fastened to the front panel, and pull the front panel down.

  4. Use a hygienic wipe to clean any incontinence that may be on the front of the body. We find that it’s easiest to put any used moistened wipes inside of the soiled brief, so you can dispose of everything at once.

  5. Roll your loved one onto their side.

  6. Use a fresh hygienic wipe to clean your loved one’s behind. If your loved one is experiencing odor, rashes, or heavy bowel incontinence, you will also want to use a perineal wash for added cleanliness.

  7. Roll the brief up, using the side tabs to fasten the product closed, with the hygienic wipes inside.

  8. At this point, if your gloves are soiled, put on a fresh pair before putting on your loved one’s fresh diaper.

How to put on a fresh adult diaper

  1. Wash your hands, and if you’d like, put on a fresh pair of gloves.

  2. Roll your loved one onto their side.

  3. Fold the adult brief lengthwise (like a hot dog). 

  4. Slide the brief between their legs, making sure the side with tabs stays in the back.

  5. Fan the backside out across your loved one’s behind.

  6. Gently roll your loved one onto their back, resting them on top of the back panel.

  7. Pull the front panel up and over their belly.

  8. Fasten the tabs snugly across their waist. 

  9. For products with one tab on each side, position the tab in whatever place seems most secure for your loved one (likely, right across the front panel). 

  10. For products with two tabs, fasten the bottom tab straight across the product. Pull the top tap so that it’s angled downwards. 

Is my loved one’s diaper the right size?

An ideally-fitting adult diaper will have tabs rested on the front of the hips. 

  • If the tabs sit back against the hips, the product is too small. Overly small briefs can cause discomfort and pinching for your loved one.

  • If the tabs are over the belly, it’s too large. Products that are too large are likely to leak out any gaps (typically, in the leg holes or up the back).

To find the right size for tab-style briefs, it’s best to measure your waist and hip sizes in inches. Use the larger of those two numbers to reference the sizing guides we provide with every product. 

How often should I change my loved one’s diaper?

How often to change your loved one’s diaper really depends on how often they void and how absorbent of a product you’re using. In general, most incontinence products should be changed 4-6 times per day. Some other good rules of thumb are:

  • Most tab-style briefs come with a built-in wetness indicator. Anytime that indicator changes color, you’ll want to switch to a new product.

  • Anytime your loved one experiences a bowel movement, you’ll want to change their product right away to best support their skin and health

  • If your loved one is experiencing leaks, and they are already in a high-absorbency product, you’ll likely want to change them more often

Changing your loved one’s absorbent products often is key to maintaining skin integrity, health, and comfort. 

Do I need a diaper cream or barrier cream?

Using a barrier cream is a great way to protect your loved one’s skin from incontinence-related damage. Barrier creams create a waterproof film over the skin, guarding against potentially damaging moisture. 

A barrier cream or a diaper cream is a good idea:

  • As a preventative measure, applied every other time your loved one is changed. Applying diaper cream occasionally can help maintain healthy skin.

  • If your loved one is experiencing skin discomfort, itching, or redness in the perineal area. If your loved one is currently dealing with skin concerns, it’s best to apply a diaper cream at every change, and to cleanse with a perineal wash.

We hope these tips make caring for your loved ones just a little bit easier. Have additional questions? Give our friendly Customer Care Team a call at 855-855-1666.

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Brianna Maguire
Brianna Maguire

Brianna Maguire heads up Carewell’s Customer Care Team, and serves as a resource for caregivers that need support. Whether it’s helping customers decide which products are best for their needs, answering caregiver questions, or just providing a shoulder to lean on on a tough day, her job is to make caregivers’ lives easier.