Study reveals alarming truth about continence care

NARI paper calls for better standard of continence support in aged care homes

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RECONGISED: Award winning academic and nurse Joan Ostaszkiewicz is calling for an overhaul of the aged care systems approach to continence care.

RECONGISED: Award winning academic and nurse Joan Ostaszkiewicz is calling for an overhaul of the aged care systems approach to continence care.


A new study says many aged care residents are hesitant to express continence needs.


An award winning paper into continence care in aged care homes has found many residents are reluctant to ask for help due to staff being "run off their feet".

National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) academic and registered nurse Joan Ostaszkiewicz and colleagues received a $5000 funding prize for research into continence care in residential aged care homes.

Professor Ostaszkiewicz was awarded the Barry Cahill Travel Scholarship for best paper at the National Conference on Incontinence in Melbourne in May.

Almost three quarters of aged care residents live with urinary incontinence. The study asked residents in the system about their experiences, expectations and preferences.

It found aged care residents were worried staff would not be able to respond to their need for toileting assistance in a timely manner.

Alarmingly, many residents with continence care needs spoke of attempting to anticipate staff availability in order to avoid overburdening them.

Professor Ostaszkiewicz said there was limited research about residents' lived experiences.

"It was really important to us that we listen to those who need the support, and base future planning and models of care around them," she said.

"Residents were extremely concerned for staff who they saw as 'run off their feet'.

"It's so important that residents feel they are able to access help to reach and use the toilet when they need it, from staff who care and understand their needs.

"But unfortunately, our research showed in many instances residents don't feel they have that access."

Incontinence can negatively impact on a person's quality of life. Increased risk of falls and the development of painful dermatitis are just two of the known impacts.

The research study was part of a larger program of research, funded by the Continence Foundation of Australia.

As a result of findings, experts have developed a best practice model of continence care in Australian residential aged care homes.

The model calls for a level of care that is:

  • Person centred
  • Based on best available evidence
  • Consistent with the expectations of people with incontinence and their families
  • Designed to support aged care providers to meet or exceed the Aged Care Quality Standards.

Professor Ostaszkiewicz and the NARI team thanked the Continence Foundation of Australia for funding the project, and the numerous expert advisors who were vital to the development of the model.

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