A new health campaign targeting women who laugh off bladder leakage as a natural part of ageing is urging seniors and those who care for them to seek help for the treatable condition.

The Continence Foundation of Australia campaign is in response to research findings that 72 per cent of women who experienced bladder leakage laughed it off during discussions with friends while 85 per cent mistakenly attributed the condition to ageing or having children.

That includes a quarter of women aged 60 and over who laughed it off because they assumed it was a natural part of getting older, according to the March 2017 survey of 1,000 women aged over 30 who had experienced incontinence.

Other key findings for older women include:

  • 27 per cent have not sought help for their leakage as they don’t know where to get it
  • 24 per cent do not know incontinence is an easily treated condition
  • 34 per cent do not perform pelvic floor muscle exercises, which is the easiest and fastest way to reverse the symptoms of incontinence
  • The most common triggers of incontinence in female seniors are exercise (42 per cent), jumping (34 per cent) and sneezing (31 per cent).

Continence Foundation of Australia chief executive Rowan Cockerell said the findings showed there was a misperception that incontinence was a normal part of ageing.

“Many people are also unaware that there are very effective and non-invasive treatments readily available,” Ms Cockerall said.

National Continence Helpline manager Sue Blinman said age was not a barrier to successful treatment.

“We have had callers to the National Continence Helpline who are in their 80s and even 90s who have had great success with treatment,” Ms Bilnman told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“Although common, incontinence is not normal, at any age,” Ms Bilnman said.

“While incontinence cannot be cured in every case, it can more often than not be much better managed, often just through small lifestyle changes to diet and toileting habits.”

Ms Bilnman said pelvic floor muscle exercises could be done at any age and were key to preventing and treating incontinence.

Aged care’s role

It was also important that aged care workers recognised that incontinence was not a natural part of ageing and that it was treatable, she said.

“Care workers can either encourage the person they are caring for to seek help, or they can phone the helpline staff for advice or discuss treatment options that could help the person, including guiding them on how to do pelvic floor muscle exercises.”

Aged care workers could also monitor the resident’s diet to ensure they are consuming enough fluids and fibre, and going to the toilet when needed.

“Even if incontinence isn’t cured, improving its severity and management can have a huge impact on their client’s quality of life and engagement in their community or residential facility,” Ms Bilbman said.

World Continence Week runs from 19 – 25 June.

Call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 for advice and information about local continence services or visit continence.org.au.

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