” A range of other practical supports for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers are provided by the Continence Foundation, including education, scholarships, and grants.
The Continence Foundation has updated its free information resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
The Continence Foundation of Australia is the peak national body representing the interests of the 4.8 million Australian adults who have incontinence.
The Foundation would like to see a community free from the stigma and restrictions of incontinence, and is always looking at ways to provide greater access to its resources.
What is incontinence?
Incontinence is a term that describes any accidental or involuntary loss of urine from the bladder (urinary incontinence) or bowel motion, faeces or wind from the bowel (faecal or bowel incontinence).
Incontinence is a widespread condition that ranges in severity from ‘just a small leak’ to complete loss of bladder or bowel control. In fact, over 4.8 million Australians have bladder or bowel control problems for a variety of reasons. Incontinence can be treated and managed. In many cases it can also be cured.
Urinary incontinence (or poor bladder control) is a common condition, that is commonly associated with pregnancy, childbirth, menopause or a range of chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes or arthritis.
Poor bladder control can range from the occasional leak when you laugh, cough or exercise to the complete inability to control your bladder, which may cause you to completely wet yourself. Other symptoms you may experience include the constant need to urgently or frequently visit the toilet, associated with ‘accidents’.
There are different types of incontinence with a number of possible causes. The following are the most common:
- stress incontinence
- urge incontinence
- incontinence associated with chronic retention, and
- functional incontinence.
Urinary incontinence can be caused by many things, but can be treated, better managed and in many cases cured. For this reason, it is important to talk to your doctor or a continence advisor about your symptoms, in order to get on top of them.
People with poor bowel control or faecal incontinence have difficulty controlling their bowels. This may mean you pass faeces or stools at the wrong time or in the wrong place. You may also find you pass wind when you don’t mean to or experience staining of your underwear.
About one in 20 people experience poor bowel control. It is more common as you get older, but a lot of young people also have poor bowel control. Many people with poor bowel control also have poor bladder control (wetting themselves).
Faecal incontinence can have a number of possible causes. The following are the most common:
- weak back passage muscles due to having babies, getting older, some types of surgery or radiation therapy
- constipation, or
- severe diarrhoea.
Economic impact of incontinence in Australia
The Deloitte Access Economics report The economic impact of incontinence in Australia explores the current prevalence and economic impact of incontinence in Australia, and provides an outline of the future projected growth of this burden.
The key findings of the report show that:
- In 2010, the total financial cost of incontinence (excluding the burden of disease) was estimated to be $42.9 billion
- This applies to the estimated 4.8 million Australians* currently living with incontinence
- The prevalence of urinary, faecal and mixed incontinence is estimated to increase to over 6.4 million Australians* by 2030
- This will increase the financial cost of the issue in terms of health system expenditure, lost earnings, costs of formal and informal care and aids and equipment
These resources are easy to understand, using everyday language and cover common issues such as:
- Grog and bladder or bowel problems
- Constipation (Hard poo)
- Leaking urine (wee) after a baby There are 12 brochures in total covering men’s, women’s and children’s continence issues, all able to be viewed and downloaded from continence.org.au/indigenous.
- Hard copies of these resources can also be ordered on the website or by phoning the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.
Other resources available include fact sheets on a wide variety of topics for consumers and health professionals including factsheets written in an Easy English format, brochures and magazines.
The Continence Foundation website has been optimised for people using assistive technology, and most of the Foundation’s YouTube videos are now captioned.
The website contains information for people who care for others with incontinence, featuring videos, personal stories and practical tips. There is also information about continence and the NDIS featuring a video for NDIS participants and one for health professionals
The Continence Foundation, on behalf of the Australian Government, manages the National Continence Helpline (1800 33 00 66), a free service staffed by continence nurse advisors who can provide information and resources 8am – 8pm AEST weekdays.
For more information, go to continence.org.au.