The little known lifesaver for sleeping through the night: the condom catheter!
Here’s where support groups and sharing information really comes in handy. Because doctors just don’t always help you as much as you need. One caregiver named Magnolia told me about how she was getting up 5 or 6 times a night every night and neither her or her husband were getting any real sleep. They were exhausted.
So they turned to her online support group for her husband’s disease for help. “They said, “Oh, you need to ask for a condom catheter.” I’d never heard of one of those, so I contacted the urologist, “Oh, yes, okay, we can do that,” but they had never recommended it! They certainly did it when I asked for it…but it was never recommended by his urologist at all. I said, “This is ridiculous!”
In this picture is the bag that collects the urine. “Do you see that, the clear tube? That’s where it hangs during the day drying out because he only uses it at night. Of all the technologies that I will talk to you about, that is the most helpful for us having a good quality of life because he has a neurogenic bladder, which means– It’s only at night. At night he’s going all the time…it was a nightmare truly….this is the important fact about having a support group…. It was never recommended by our doctor…and I complained about this for months. I said, “This is going to kill me,” and I really felt that way for a while because I didn’t get any sleep at all.” So Magnolia posted her question and people recommended a condom catheter. “It has been the blessing of our lives. He sleeps good, I sleep good.”
This picture just shows you the bag. “The tube is tucked into the bag, so it looks a little strange, but it’s a bag. When it’s filled up with urine, it’s very evident, but this is completely flat right now because it’s drying out.”
Sometimes condom catheters are even covered by health insurance because it is a prescription product. Just know, Magnolia says, that “sometimes you have to shop around, if one [brand] doesn’t work, try another. They have different sizes. It is a condom that you put on and then you attach the tube to the condom, it just works great.” The whole thing is a prescription — the catheter bag, tubing and condoms. Can’t get a prescription? Magnolia says you can order them online, but of course, then you’d have to pay. “This is an expensive product, so getting it– It’s like getting ibuprofen prescription or over the counter. If you do condom catheters over the counter, man, oh, man…it’s constant because you have to keep rebuying them. It’s a good product to have by prescription.”
The reason it can add up out of pocket is that the condoms are only used once. In the prescription, “We get three months’ worth of condoms, so that’s one for every night and then we get six bags.”
Of course, sometimes people resist using catheters at night. We often have a lot of shame around these issues, but embracing a quick solution like this can have really positive results for everyone. Magnolia told me that some folks who need it, “They absolutely say no, they don’t want to do that. It’s a sense of they’re giving up, but I don’t think so. To me, it’s added quality. It’s added quality to our lives.”