When we think about the cost of incontinence, we mainly think about continence pads or products you wear to contain or absorb any leakage, but there are a lot more expenses faced by someone living with incontinence than this. The cost of incontinence can affect many aspects of a person’s life. The costs may be direct (e.g. continence pads), indirect (e.g. loss of wages due to sick leave) and intangible (e.g. psychosocial costs such as stress and decreased quality of life costs). To summarise, these include:

  • Continence products e.g. pads, pants, catheters, bed protection
  • Skin and hygiene care e.g. wipes, barrier cream
  • Washing e.g. electricity, water usage, washing powder
  • Replacement of clothing and bed linen
  • Medications for bladder and bowel management e.g. laxatives, medications for an overactive bladder and an enlarged prostate
  • Diagnosis and treatment e.g. appointment and/or test expenses, health insurance, out of pocket expenses, equipment purchases such as electrical stimulation devices and bedwetting alarms
  • Travel costs to attend appointments e.g. petrol, parking fees etc.
  • Wage or employment costs e.g. time off to attend appointments, reduced hours available to work due to continence care/management or lack of facilities
  • Carer costs for paid (formal) carers or unpaid (informal family/friends) carers to help with continence care needs.

There are also costs associated with the consequences of incontinence such as skin irritation, urinary tract infections and potential falls. Carers may also bear the costs of physical and emotional exhaustion. 

In Australia, there is support for the direct and indirect costs of incontinence. However, it is important to also address the intangible cost of incontinence through care for your mental health needs such as seeing a counsellor or clinical psychologist, or making sure your day includes time for self-care through exercise, mindfulness, meditation and social activities.

The Australian Federal Government and most State and Territory Governments provide some funding for the direct cost of continence products; however, a health care professional is generally needed to assist a person to apply for a continence product funding scheme. Examples of these include:

  • Continence Aids Payment Scheme (CAPS) - for people aged five years and over with permanent and severe bladder and/or bowel incontinence, with either an eligible neurological condition or a holder of a Centrelink or Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) Pensioner Concession Card and have an eligible other condition. Funds are provided to go towards the cost of continence products. For more information go to continence.org.au/get-help/financial-assistance/continence-aids-payment-scheme-caps
  • Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) Rehabilitation Appliances Program (DVA-RAP) – for veterans or war widow(er)s who hold a DVA Gold Card or a DVA White Card under which incontinence is an accepted disability.  Continence products are provided directly to the recipient. Go to continence.org.au/get-support/financial-assistance/dva-rehabilitation-appliances-program
  •  State and Territory Schemes – most states and territories have a continence product funding scheme for people living in the community with a permanent disability. They have varying eligibility criteria and application processes. Continence products are generally supplied directly to the person, once they have been assessed by a health care professional qualified to do so.

For further information on the various continence product funding schemes, please call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 to speak to a nurse continence specialist, who will be able to guide you through the eligibility criteria, explain how to apply for a scheme and direct you to who can support you with the application process.

The Australian Federal Government provides some support to those with direct and indirect continence care needs.  These include:

  •  National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) - for people aged under 65 years living with a disability caused by a permanent impairment, continence assessment, continence products and support may be included in an eligible participant’s NDIS plan continence.org.au/get-help/financial-assistance/national-disability-insurance-scheme
  • Home Care Package (HCP) - for people aged 65 years and older (or 50 years and older for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) who need support to stay at home continence assessment, continence products and care may be included in a person’s plan myagedcare.gov.au/help-at-home/home-care-packages

The Australian Federal Government provides financial and practical support for carers to aid them in their carer’s role. These include:

  • Carer’s Allowance – a fortnightly payment for a carer who provides daily care for a person who has a met a care needs score and the carer has met the income test.  There is no asset test. Go to servicesaustralia.gov.au/carer-allowance
  • Carer’s Payment – a fortnightly payment/pension for a carer providing constant care to a person with a severe disability, illness or is frail aged who has a met a care needs score and the carer is under the pension and asset test limits. Go to servicesaustralia.gov.au/carer-payment
  • Carer Gateway – provides emotional and practical services and support for carers. This includes support groups, counselling and emergency respite. Go to carergateway.gov.au/

Please call the Continence Foundation of Australia’s National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 to speak to a nurse continence specialist for free and confidential advice, information and support for people living with incontinence or bladder and/or bowel dysfunction and their carers.  The Helpline is available Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm AEST.