Incontinence is a condition that affects more than 4.8 million Australians and is associated with a number of health challenges.

Not only can it profoundly affect an individual’s quality of life, but it can also impact those around them.

Incontinence describes any accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder (urinary incontinence) or bowel motion, faeces or wind from the bowel (faecal or bowel incontinence).

Incontinence can be caused by a number of issues, and is often a complication arising from other chronic conditions.

As people age, the likelihood of having incontinence increases. In fact, it’s estimated that at least 70 per cent of people in residential aged care have incontinence.

Incontinence, a physically challenging condition, can also have psychological effects on a person. Many older people fear suffering an incontinent episode, and as a result struggle with social isolation when they stop going out.

Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, spoke at the National Conference on Incontinence last week.

He said that incontinence is an important issue because “fundamentally, it’s about dignity”.

“The Government recognises this and, I’m proud to say, we are also committed to providing support that can help change the lives of people with incontinence.”

“This is why our commitment to the National Continence Program is unshakable — providing funding of nearly $4 million per year from 2016-17 to 2019-20.”

“In 2001 the Government launched the National Public Toilet Map website which shows the location of over 16,000 facilities available to the public across Australia.”

The National Public Toilet Map is one of the most visited Commonwealth websites and has in the past 12 months had over 800,000 visitors, with the iPhone app now downloaded by 1.5 million people.

“It is equally important that we talk about providing care that preserves the dignity of our Senior Australians. I’m talking about care that focuses on the best and most dignified way to manage incontinence — not just the fastest.”

“As the Minister for Aged Care, I know that incontinence is a significant issue among our frail elderly.”

“In fact, falls prevention and personal hygiene — both major factors in managing incontinence — were the second and third most common types of complaints made to the Aged Care Commissioner in the last financial year.”

There are a number of researches that found a link between incontinence and falls – one 2012 UK study also found that the higher the degree of incontinence, the greater the risk of falls.

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare cites research that indicates that people will make extraordinary efforts to avoid an incontinent episode — including taking chances that place them at a higher risk of falls.

“I firmly believe that the measure of a good society is how we treat and support our most vulnerable citizens, particularly our seniors.”

“Dignity, compassion and respect are important to everyone, particularly for those of us living with and managing this condition.”

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