Patients put into 'nappies' to free up care staff
Elderly people are being encouraged into incontinence wear in some nursing homes and hospitals so staff don't have to help them to the bathroom.
Advocacy groups for the elderly described it as a demeaning and disturbing way of "managing" residents who are not actually incontinent but who may be infirm.
The practice has evolved with the development of longer-lasting incontinence wear that sometimes doesn't need to be changed for 24 hours, which frees up staff.
Already flagged up in some Irish hospitals, there are reports that the practice is now being used in a small number of nursing homes, Sage, an advocacy group, is raising awareness of the practice among elderly people and their families, under the logo, "Not everyone is happy in a nappy".
Mervyn Taylor, head of Sage, has previously highlighted how an elderly and continent hospital patient was medicated to encourage her to adapt to incontinence pads.
Age Action Ireland has also recorded complaints about the practice. "We have had reports suggesting that people are being deliberately 'weaned' on to incontinence pads so that staff don't have to bother moving them to go to the bathroom.
"How widespread the practice is, we wouldn't be able to say but it has come up," said Justin Moran, of Age Action Ireland.
Several Irish doctors warned against managing patients with incontinence wear in hospitals and emergency departments.
A Galway GP, Dr Mary Rogan, warned against the practice at a conference two years ago, saying that it results in patients developing incontinence in hospitals.
She said that she knew of many cases where elderly people who needed bathroom assistance were fitted with nappies because of staff shortages.
A study in the US in 2011 found that many elderly people who were continent on entering nursing homes but were fitted with incontinence wear on admission created an over-dependence that resulted in losing the ability to control their bladders and bowels.