Carers hands

With 6.2 million Australians set to be affected by incontinence in 2030, the Continence Foundation of Australia is saddened that the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety barely rated the need for specialised continence support, education and training in its Final Report. 

“One in four Australians are currently affected by incontinence, and it has long-term effects on both physical and emotional health,” Continence Foundation of Australia CEO, Rowan Cockerell, says. 

In 2010, incontinence was estimated to cost Australia 67 billion dollars annually. 

In evidence provided to the Commission Mrs Cockerell stated that “Incontinence is a major contributor for a person to leave their home and enter residential aged care. Research tells us that once they are there, their chance of experiencing incontinence increases dramatically. More than 75% of people living in Aged Care are incontinent and their safe care and quality of life depends entirely on having adequate support to toilet effectively.  

Yet in the Royal Commission recommendations, continence care barely rates a mention! 

“Prioritising continence care and support will improve the health, wellbeing and dignity of all people living in Aged Care,” Mrs Cockerell says. “We wholeheartedly agree that providing training in prevention, management and support in continence care is absolutely vital if the Commission’s recommendations are to have meaningful reform and are here to assist.” 

Throughout the hearings the Commission heard horrifying accounts of aged care residents not being providing with the dignity of timely toileting assistance and their subsequent decline due to inappropriate or ineffective care. 

The Foundation recently proposed a National Strategy on Incontinence focusing on four key areas: maximising national awareness, boosting workforce capacity, economic participation and ongoing research. This strategy echoes the Commission findings that significant investment is required in the aged care workforce. However, until there is greater awareness of the issues relating to poor continence care and the impact it has on a resident’s health and wellbeing it is unlikely to be a priority moving forward. The government needs to act on all four areas if there is to be any lasting change.  

The Foundation is in the final stages of development of a best practice model of continence care for residential aged care, mapped against current aged care standards and providing detailed guidance for aged care providers on how to achieve quality continence care.  

The Foundation looks forward to working with the Australian Government to deliver improved health outcomes for all Aged Care residents who are at risk of or have incontinence and urges them to consider continence care as part of a Quality Aged Care system.