Woman with Down Syndrome

One in four Australians aged 15 and older is incontinent. And don’t assume they’re all infirm and elderly; those most at risk are pregnant women, men with prostate disease, women who’ve had babies, overweight people and elite athletes.

And certain illnesses make people more susceptible: Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, diabetes, spina bifida and arthritis are just some of the conditions that increase the likelihood of incontinence.

World Continence Week (June 20 – 26) is a timely reminder that incontinence is a significant, yet very treatable condition that can be prevented, cured or better managed in most cases, often through simple lifestyle changes.

This year, in addition to asking Australians to “improve their bottom line” by adopting healthy bladder and bowel habits, the Continence Foundation of Australia aims capture a significant portion of the population that has, until now, had limited access to information and resources.

This is the one in five Australians who live with disabilities; be they physical, intellectual, social, emotional or psychological. This group is the focus of the Continence Foundation’s major project for 2016: Finding the answers; improving access to continence information.

At the launch of World Continence Week the Continence Foundation will deliver a number of initiatives aimed at making their resources more accessible to people with disabilities. These include Easy English fact sheets, assistive technology for accessing the Foundation’s website, and website modifications to assist people using adaptive technologies.

Continence Foundation of Australia chief executive Rowan Cockerell said the project recognised the significant barriers people with disabilities faced every day when accessing health information.  

“This is something we are doing to ensure all people, regardless of their personal limitations, have access to our information and resources,” Ms Cockerell said.

“This project is an extension of the work we have done previously to improve accessibility for non-English-speaking people, with our fact sheets translated into 30 languages. Being as inclusive as possible extends our reach and ability to educate and inform.

“And our message is the same for everyone; incontinence is, in most cases, preventable and treatable,” she said.

Ms Cockerell said the key steps to maintaining good bladder and bowel health were to eat well, drink well, be as active as possible, daily pelvic floor muscle exercises and practise good toilet habits.

She said people shouldn’t be embarrassed about seeking help. “There is a lot of help out there. The Continence Foundation has many resources and information on the website, as well as a free, confidential helpline staffed by continence nurses. They can provide callers with advice, information about their nearest continence service, and information about government subsidies,” she said.

For more information about the prevention and management of incontinence go continence.org.au, and for free, confidential advice about incontinence, speak to one of the continence nurse advisors on the National Continence Helpline (1800 33 00 66) 8am to 8pm weekdays AEST.