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.
Continence and ageing
Some physiological aspects of ageing can impact bladder and bowel function and have an enormous impact on an older person’s quality of life.
Identifying continence issues
Continence issues are often treatable and, in some cases, reversible. Hospital admission provides an opportunity to investigate continence issues.
Preventing and treating incontinence
Continence interventions aim to improve an older person’s overall function, promote social continence and promote good bladder habits and strategies.
Continence and discharge planning
We can help patients make a smooth transition from the hospital to their home or care facility by addressing their ongoing continence management needs.
Further information - continence
Educational and information resources available on identifying, assessing and managing incontinence in older people in hospital.
All public and private hospitals are required to be accredited to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare’s (ACSQHC) National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards. The primary aims of the standards are to protect the public from harm and to improve the quality of health service provision. Assessment to the second edition of the NSQHS Standards commenced in January 2019. The second edition comprises eight standards that provide a nationally consistent statement about the level of care consumers can expect from health services.
The Comprehensive Care Standard (Standard 5) aims to ensure that patients receive comprehensive health care that meets their individual needs, and considers the impact of their health issues on their life and wellbeing. It also aims to ensure that risks of harm for patients during health care are prevented and managed through targeted strategies. These include integrating patient care processes to identify patient needs and identifying actions related to falls, pressure injuries, nutrition, mental health, cognitive impairment and end-of-life care.
Information is presented in the Older People in Hospital learning topics that complements Standard 5 and other NSQHS Standards including the; Partnering with Consumers Standard (Standard 2), Medication Safety Standard (Standard 4), Communicating for Safety Standard (Standard 6) and Recognising and Responding to Acute Deterioration (Standard 8).
Reviewed 10 November 2021