Incontinence care needs to shift away from “cleaning up after accidents”

A general lack of knowledge about how to manage incontinence is leading to inadequate care for too many people, according to a recent paper published in the Health Management Forum.

In their paper, “From stigma to spotlight”, researchers Wayne Taylor and Jacqueline Cahill say health care providers need to move to a patient-centered care model when caring for people with incontinence. After reviewing multiple Canadian studies of urinary incontinence, the researchers say there’s an urgent need to reinvent care in the stigmatized area of incontinence.

The Biggest Issue

“The biggest issue identified across all these recent studies, especially among the elderly patients, both at home and in residential care, was the length of time spent sitting in soiled continence products while waiting to be cleaned,” they write.

It’s not just a question of having adequate resources available – such as staffing or the availability of friends and family – “but also the lack of knowledge of how to actually manage incontinence rather than just clean up after an ‘accident’.”

They argue that healthcare providers and personal support workers need to be given better education and tools to manage incontinence. That can mean proactive toileting, for example.

A Simple, Patient-Centered Tool for Incontinence

This is an argument we know well at Triple W. In fact, this same patient-centered focus is what drove us to develop the DFree.

It’s a simple solution to help people manage their own incontinence better. It’s also showing tremendous potential in environments like long-term care facilities where caregivers can get alerts to help with proactive toileting.

Patient-centered care is a simple concept. It means “providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.” It’s not a new concept, but the researchers say it hasn’t been followed for people with urinary incontinence.

Need to Reduce Stigma

One of the major underlying barriers to improving care for people with incontinence is to reduce the stigma associated with it. The paper says as much as 10 percent of the population may have incontinence but less than one-third of those report it.

“Individuals are often reluctant to discuss their incontinence with family, friends, and physician,” wrote the researchers. “Treatment is usually only sought once incontinence becomes severe or interferes with sexual function.”

Another major barrier to improving care for incontinence is in dispelling the notion that the condition is just a normal part of aging. In reality, it is usually the result of a combination of factors.

“This was an interesting paper and we support its conclusions about improving training and education to improve care and reduce the stigma associated with incontinence. We see every day how giving people a tool to help them proactively manage their incontinence helps boost or restore dignity,” said Taichi Takayanagi, VP of Marketing and Business Development with Triple W. “That’s the promise of DFree. It gives people a feeling of more control where they may have felt they had very little.”

5 Principles for Patient-Centered Care
  1. Respect – respect patients’ unique needs, preferences, values, autonomy and independence;
  2. Choice and empowerment – Patients have a right and responsibility to participate as a partner in making healthcare decisions that affect their lives within a healthcare system which provides suitable choices in treatment and management options that fit with patients’ needs;
  3. Patient involvement in health policy – Patients and patients’ organizations must share the responsibility of healthcare policy making through meaningful and supported engagement in all levels and at all points of decision-making, to ensure that they are designed with the patient at the center;
  4. Access and support – All patients must have access to the healthcare services warranted by their condition including access to safe, quality and appropriate services, treatments, preventive care and health promotion activities; and,
  5. Information – Accurate, relevant and comprehensive information is essential to enable patients and carers to make informed decisions about healthcare treatment and living with their condition.

Source: International Association of Patient Organizations