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What are the impacts of incontinence?

An NHS inquiry highlighted that in two thirds of cases concerns were raised about continence and bladder and bowel care

The Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Inquiry (2013)[1] highlighted that two thirds (22 of 33) of cases of oral evidence heard raised significant concerns about continence and bladder and bowel care.

Bladder and bowel continence was the area of care singled out for complaint most frequently.

This indicates the importance of dignified continence care to the overall standards of nursing provided.

The Public Inquiry Chair Sir Robert Francis QC said:

‘The omissions described left patients struggling to care for themselves; this led to injury and a loss of dignity…. The impact of this on them and their families is almost unimaginable’.

Impacts of incontinence

Urinary incontinence is known to have devastating effects on a person. They may feel embarrassed, ashamed, they may isolate themselves and this can cause depression. They may even feel that life is not worth living[2].

People with incontinence in hospital may report feeling lonely, losing confidence and being abandoned by nursing staff[3].

Quality of life in people with incontinence in nursing homes is poor, and those with dementia are affected just as much, despite many staff thinking they would not be as aware or as bothered as those without dementia[4]. Any improvement in severity of incontinence was positively associated with improved quality of life.


1. Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. [6 February 2013; cited 24 August 2018]. Available from:

2. Aguilar-Navarro S, Navarrete-Reyes AP, Grados-Chavarría BH, García-Lara JMA, Amieva H, Ávila-Funes JA, et al. The severity of urinary incontinence decreases health-related quality of life among community-dwelling elderly. J Gerontol A. 2012;67(11):1266–71. [Cited 26 July 2018]. Accessed from:

3. Fultz NH, Herzog AR. Self-reported social and emotional impact of urinary incontinence. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2001;49(7):892–9. [Cited 26 July 2018] Available from:

4. DuBeau CE, Simon SE, Norris JN. The effect of urinary incontinence on quality of life in older nursing home residents. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2006;54(9):1325–33. [Cited 26 July 2018]. Available from:

© Association for Continence Advice. CC BY-NC 4.0
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Understanding Continence Promotion: Effective Management of Bladder and Bowel Dysfunction in Adults

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