Incontinence is a term that describes any accidental or involuntary loss of urine, faeces or wind.
Though it can happen at any age, older people are particularly susceptible to experiencing incontinence.
People who suffer from incontinence often suffer from shame, fear and anxiety over having an accident.
There are two main kinds of incontinence;
There are a number of things that can be done to improve – and in some cases even cure – incontinence, including changes in diet and lifestyle, incorporating regular exercise and practices, and good toilet habits.
In aged care, there are many residents who suffer with incontinence. It is believed that around 77% of residents in Australia are affected by some form of incontinence.
In fact, bowel incontinence is one of the three major causes (along with decreased mobility and dementia) for admittance to a residential aged care facility.
With so many elderly people struggling with cognitive and physical impairments, residents often need the support of a carer or nurse to prevent any accidents or incontinence.
While it is important to make sure the residents are kept hygienically clean and dry, it’s also vitally important to ensure that the older person’s dignity is maintained where possible.
When an elderly person is in aged care, they should not feel ashamed when they have an accident or leak.
Though staff are aware of incontinence, it still remains a highly stigmatised and mostly untreated condition.
Some aged care residents find that the way staff manage their incontinence issues is simply by ‘padding them up’ – which can leave them feeling uncomfortable and undignified.
Continence is strongly connected with a person’s quality of life – and working with an older person to prevent them from becoming incontinent can make a huge difference to a person’s physical and mental wellbeing.
So, what steps can an aged care worker take to ensure a resident maintains their dignity when dealing with incontinence issues?
Factors that may influence whether incontinence is well managed within an organisation may depend on design and layout of the facility, the environment, access to professional support or aids, and staff attitudes.
Incontinence is a real issue in aged care that goes beyond ‘having an accident’, and staff need to remember the person behind the condition and their dignity.
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