Caring for someone with incontinence can sometimes feel overwhelming. However, there are many services available to help you and the person you are caring for to better manage the issue. The following services are a good first step in addressing problems you may be experiencing.
For most people, the starting point will be their doctor. Doctors provide continence assessments and treatment options; they can also review and prescribe medications, order clinical tests or refer to a bladder or bowel medical specialist, a continence nurse adviser or a continence physiotherapist.
When making an appointment with the doctor, ask for a long consultation to give you both time to explain the problem without feeling rushed. Write down all the things that are happening and the questions you have to ensure you cover all the areas of concern.
A continence nurse advisor is a nurse with specialised training in continence care, who is able to assess incontinence and advise on its treatment and management. Continence nurse advisors may visit the person being cared for at home or see them in a continence service.
They may be found in many areas of the health service, including:
• public and private hospital outpatient departments
• specialist hospital departments
• the community
• aged care facilities
• doctor surgeries.
A continence physiotherapist has specialised training in pelvic floor rehabilitation, including continence assessment and management. They work with the person being cared for and assist them to use their pelvic floor muscles correctly.
The local community health centre or district nursing service may have a nurse or physiotherapist with expertise in continence assessment and management. A community health nurse may be able to refer you both to an appropriate health professional. Inquiries should be made at the closest community health centre or district nursing service in the area.
Medical specialists include medical doctors, urologists, gynaecologists, urogynaecologists, gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons and geriatricians. The specialists will organise tests, review medication and consider other options, such as surgery, if appropriate. A referral from the doctor is required to see a medical specialist.
Practice nurses are nurses who work from a doctor practice. Ask at the doctor practice if they have a practice nurse who can provide advice and support regarding bladder and bowel problems.
Pharmacists sell and provide advice and information on medications and continence products. Many may keep information leaflets on incontinence or where to find help.
For more information about who to speak to, visit the Health Professionals page.
State Carers Associations can provide carers with information, advice and referral to services that can assist them in their caring role. To find out what services exist, visit the Carers Advisory Service webpage or call 1800 242 636. Information is available on a range of topics, including home help, carer’s support groups, financial entitlements, support services, respite and general assistance. Visit the Carers Australia website for more information about Carers Associations in your state.
Respite can provide carers with a break from care. Carer respite centres can organise either short-term or emergency respite for carers. This respite can take place in the person’s home or in a registered facility depending on your needs. You can contact your local Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on freecall 1800 052 222 during business hours or for emergency respite outside standard business hours freecall 1800 059 059. Commonwealth Respite & Carelink Centres on can also provide information on community, aged and disability services and carer support.
Alzheimer's Australia is the peak body providing support and advocacy for the more than 321,000 Australians living with dementia. Alzheimer’s Australia advocates the needs of people living with dementia, and their families and carers.
Alzheimer’s Australia can be contacted through:
Centrelink, on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Human Services, delivers payments and services for retirees, job seekers, families, carers, parents, people with disabilities, Indigenous Australians, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and provides services at times of major change. Call on 132 717 or visit Centrelink's website.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is an Australian Government agency providing support and information for:
•veterans and their dependants
•Australian Defence Force personnel
•Australian participants in British Nuclear Tests in Australia
•members of the Australian Federal Police, and
•students, teachers and historians.
DVA can be contacted on 133 254 (for metropolitan callers) or 1800 555 254 (for regional callers) or visit the Department of Veterans' Affairs website.
Technical Aid to the Disabled is a not for profit organisation that specialises in creating or modifying equipment for people with a disability of all ages, older people, and supporting their carers. They are represented in all states and territories except for Northern Territory. They can be contacted Australia-wide on 1300 663 243
The helpline is staffed by a team of continence nurse advisers who provide information, advice and referral to callers with incontinence or who are caring for someone with incontinence. It also provides information and advice to health professionals.
The Helpline provides free information on continence-related topics, products and financial assistance schemes, and can provide contact details for local continence services.
The Helpline is available to Australian residents, and operates 8am to 8pm (AEST) Mondays to Friday (except national public holidays).