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Diaper Banks
By Trish Hughes Kreis, Staff Writer

I had never heard of Diaper Banks until my daughter started high school (which was longer ago than I care to remember!). Each year, the school held a competition between the grade levels to see who could build the biggest “diaper wall.” For four years, we purchased diapers by the case to contribute to this fundraising effort benefitting a local woman’s shelter (and help Rachel’s class win!) The girls (it was an all-girls school) enjoyed collecting the diapers, making a huge production of carting them into the school, and building a wall with thousands of diapers. It was a fairly well-known fundraiser in the community, and the girls had fun while helping mothers in need.

Until my disabled, middle-aged brother became incontinent, it didn’t occur to me that Diaper Banks could help anyone—not just babies and toddlers. Although my daughter’s school only collected baby diapers, Diaper Banks are expanding to also include adult protective briefs. Incontinence affects over 13 million adults and there are many more disabled older children in need of protective briefs as well.

Incontinent supplies don’t come cheap!

Medicare only pays for these supplies if a person is a patient in a hospital or Skilled Nursing Facility. If a person living with incontinence is at home or living in an Assisted Living Facility, the cost is not covered by Medicare. Supplemental insurance rarely covers these costs, either. Sometimes these supplies are paid for by Medicaid, but oftentimes the family pays for these supplies out-of-pocket (which can run a family upwards of $100 every month). For those living on Social Security alone, this can easily move from a person’s “must have” list to the wish list.

An unfortunate byproduct of this sometimes out-of-reach expense is that if the cost of adult protective briefs is too overwhelming for a family, there may be a temptation to make a brief last longer than it should. This can lead to other health problems for the person living with incontinence. This inability to wear protection and keep dry can also lead to isolation and a fear of leaving the house in case of an “accident.” Isolation leads to depression. This can become a terrible downward spiral all because adult protective briefs are not within financial reach.

There is an alternative.

Diaper Banks are available in many local cities and are growing in popularity. Diaper Banks generally partner with local social service agencies such as the United Way or the local food bank, instead of distributing directly to the consumer. Finding a Diaper Bank in your area is as easy as searching “diaper bank” along with your city in the search engine, using a few clicks on the computer (or by finding them in your local phone book and calling). The local Diaper Bank will be able to tell you which social services agencies it partners with so you then can contact that agency for assistance.If a Diaper Bank cannot be found close by, contacting the local food bank may be helpful. They may have their own Diaper Bank or may be able to refer you to another local agency who partners with a Diaper Bank.

Diaper Banks may not always include adult incontinence products in the supplies they carry, but many do and, if asked and shown the need, most would start carrying these products. This can be a welcome alternative to either going without these supplies or paying for the adult protective briefs out of pocket. If a local Diaper Bank cannot be found, it is also possible to start one (or to convince a local organization to start one). The need is there and, due to the downturn in the economy, has grown in the last few years.

If you or your family is in need of some occasional help and adult protective briefs become too expensive, don’t overlook your local Diaper Bank. Many people are in the same position and help may be just a phone call away. Reaching out for help from your local Diaper Bank may get you (or your loved one) out of the house and staying dry in no time.

As an added note, for those in a position to organize or contribute to food or clothing drives, remember diapers usually drop to the bottom of the list of items to collect. Adult protective briefs are even further down the list or forgotten altogether. When thinking of ways to help your community, don’t overlook this growing need. Perhaps build your own wall of diapers!


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