Continence issues are rarely the reason for hospital admission. Older people who experience incontinence or constipation, or develop these issues during their stay, are at risk of poorer outcomes than those who do not.

Incontinence and constipation are often signs that an older person is experiencing other health conditions.

Targeted screening, assessment and intervention can have a positive impact on the patient’s ability to participate in all recommended activities in hospital, reduce the person’s risk of experiencing a range of cascading problems such as infection, wounds and delirium, and have a lasting effect on their social and functional quality of life when they are discharged.

This topic gives an overview of continence and recommends actions that we and our organisations can take, in addition to health service policy and procedures, to provide quality care to older patients.

All Australian hospitals are being accredited under The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare’s (ACSQHC) National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards. Each of the ten standards relate to optimising clinical care and better outcomes for all patients. While identifying and responding to continence issues are not directly referred to within the NSQHSS, this topic highlights the need to approach the clinical issues older people face in hospital in a holistic and person-centred way in order to identify and respond to multiple modifiable risk factors throughout their stay. Doing this will improve our systems, clinical care and ultimately the outcomes for older people to prevent falls and harm from falls (standard 10), prevent and manage pressure injuries (standard 8) and improve medication safety (standard 4).

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