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What can we do to improve the patient experience of continence care?

Incontinence can affect people of all ages and genders and can have devastating psychological, social and financial implications for the individual and his or her family. Many people may fail to seek help with incontinence for years due to embarrassment and stigma, which in turn can lead to social isolation. The prevalence of bladder and bowel incontinence is increasing worldwide, in part due to an ageing population ó more people are being looked after in residential and nursing homes than ever before and admissions to acute care due to incontinence-associated conditions have increased. All of these factors increase the burden of care on health and social care staff, potentially leading to a lack of quality services. Dignity is internationally accepted as a fundamental human right, yet a host of public inquiries (such as the Francis Report [2013] in the UK) repeatedly raise the issue of failure to respect patientís dignity, particularly in relation to continence care. This article explores why continence care causes such complicated issues and how community nurses can help to ensure it is seen as an essential element of care, rather than being dismissed as only requiring basic skills.