What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is not a disease. It is a symptom of a wide range of social and pathophysiological factors.

It is NOT an inevitable part of aging.

Incontinence is, however, common. It can be both embarrassing for the resident and contribute to swifter declines and costly medical complications.

The prevalence of urinary incontinence varies according to the definition being used and the populations being studied. In 2010, there were about 4.2 million Australians aged 15 years and over living with urinary incontinence. The prevalence rate is much higher in residential aged care populations where 71% of older people living in residential aged care facilities experience urinary incontinence (Deloitte Access Economics, 2011).

A documentation review of client records from Aged Care Assessment Teams (41,000) and Residential Aged Care (128,900) in Australia found 87% of Registered Nurses recorded urinary incontinence as a 'significant' or 'very significant' reason for admission to a residential aged care facility (Pearson 2003).

This evidence from Australia can be used as a measure for the issues of incontinence in other Western countries, including the United States and Europe. It is a significant, costly, and unfortunately, a very common problem.

The Costs of Incontinence

The financial impact of urinary incontinence for aged and healthcare services is staggering. There's no other way to put it.

Take, for example, this evidence from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). In 2006, the AIHW reported that in 2003 the cost for urinary incontinence care in Australian residential aged care facilities was $1.127 million with a further $112 million for continence aids.

Hospital and Healthcare further estimates that caring for urinary incontinence takes up 25% of staff time in Residential Aged Care (November 2002, 15-16; Steel and Fonda 1995). These combined costs make it a leading cost in the operation of residential aged care services.

As the general population continues to age, the cost of incontinence management will continue to skyrocket.