The widespread use of disposable incontinence pads has promoted a marked reduction in the use of indwelling catheters. Professor James Malone-Lee of University College,London said that if you walked into a geriatric ward or nursing home in the 1985's, you would have been struck repelled even by the smell. Urinary incontinence is common among the very old, but it has not been a popular subject for medical research. Anyhow, much progress has been made and, in fact, an old people's ward need not smell at all.
Professor Malone-Lee and his team helped introduce the incontinence pad and, after many years of research into absorbent materials, have banged upon a synthetic polymer. The technology came from the disposable nappy now in very widespread use. But doctors were slow to accept that adults could or should wear nappies -instead, they resorted to indwelling catheters, which compounded the problem because they raise the risk of urinary tract infection (and it is infected urine that smells most). A well-designed incontinence pad should deal with the odour problem.
Professor Malone-Lee predicts in future that the development of even more sophisticated designs and high-tech materials for the manufacture of incontinence pads will increase. But it is unlikely that there would ever be a method of neutralising unpleasant smells from stale urine.