Call to break taboo of talking to health and care workers about incontinence

More must be done to break the “taboo” around incontinence, leading charities have said.

The condition affects millions of people yet many are deterred from talking to health or care workers about the issue.

Ten organisations including Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, Marie Curie and Parkinson’s UK have called for public awareness campaigns to highlight the issue.

This would make people feel more comfortable about talking to health or care professionals about their problems, they said.

A new report by the organisations called on officials to do more to help people who suffer from incontinence.

The document highlights how continence problems are made worse with the associated stigma and lack of understanding about the condition.

Many see the condition as an “inevitable part of ageing”. Others say they are unwilling to seek support because they are embarrassed, the report adds.

The authors said that many people “self-manage in silence” but warned that a delay in seeking help can lead to a narrowing of treatment options and compromises the efficacy of treatments.

The report concludes: “The taboo around continence issues must be broken through more public discussion and policy campaigns.

“This will in turn make it easier for patients and carers to mention continence issues when talking to health and social care professionals.”

It also calls for more research into the issue, more dedicated services and better training and education for both health and social care workers and patients with their carers.

The charities said that across the UK there are more than 14 million adults with bladder control problems and 6.5 million with bowel control problems.

Commenting on the report, Lesley Carter, clinical lead at Age UK, said: “Incontinence can have a big impact on an older person’s quality of life, their wellbeing and independence.

“Too often, people are left to manage alone because they feel too embarrassed to seek help, or when they do, adequate support is not available.

“We urgently need to break the taboo around incontinence and invest in dedicated services and training for staff to support people to manage incontinence effectively and remain independent.

“As our population ages, more and more people will be likely to experience incontinence and as a society, we must act now to end the stigma.”

Dr Doug Brown, chief research and policy officer at the Alzheimer’s Society charity, added: “People with dementia are 50% more likely than other people their age to be incontinent.

“As dementia progresses, people can forget where the toilet is or when they last went, and eventually stop recognising the need to go at all – so it’s a vital concern for the 850,000 people currently living with dementia across the UK.”

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