Improving Continence Care for Care Home Residents

The British Geriatrics Society today launched a new poster campaign to improve continence care for care home residents.  The poster, supported by the Royal College of Nursing, aims to counter the presumption that all frail older people are incontinent and to demonstrate that simple actions can ensure that people remain continent.

Further to recent data published by the Care Quality Commission, which suggests that only a third of care home staff have attended training about continence care in the past year, the informative poster produced by the BGS and the RCN is being distributed to care homes across the United Kingdom.  

Care homes provide care for people with complex and multiple health care needs. Nearly 400,000 people live in care homes and of the population aged over 85, 20% are residents in a care home.  A marker of dignified, compassionate and humane care is whether people’s continence needs are met. Many older people with incontinence suffer in silence.  Some people become so frightened that they stop drinking in case they wet themselves.  The need to deliver dignified care has been documented by the Royal College of Physicians “Privacy and Dignity in Continence Care Project” (RCP 2009 & 2010).  However, the Care Quality Commission estimates that one in three care home residents do not feel that they are offered choices about how their continence needs are managed and a quarter of residents with continence needs feel that they do not have a choice of male or female staff to help them use the toilet.   Failing to meet people’s continence needs results in a loss of dignity.

The joint BGS and RCN poster to improve continence care in care homes reminds staff to find out about people's normal bowel and bladder routine and to be aware that incontinence is a sign that something is wrong.  

Dr Jackie Morris, BGS Dignity Champion said: “We are trying to address the issue of people being unaware that incontinence can very often be a remediable condition.  Older care home residents, including people with dementia, do not have to be incontinent.  It can be a deeply distressing disorder but it can be avoided.  We all want dignity, privacy, choice, care, hygiene, comfort and control over when we go to the toilet.  Care staff and nurses and doctors visiting care homes must work in partnership to identify treatable causes of incontinence and to thereby to restore dignity and comfort to those in their care.”

Nicky Hayes Consultant Nurse for Older People at the Royal College of Nursing, said:  “This poster will provide a valuable resource for care home staff. Continence care can be a real challenge for nurses working in care homes and the poster outlines some key messages for all staff.  We would urge all care homes to ensure that toilets are clearly signposted by pictures and words, and be aware that people who are restless, agitated and appear uncomfortable may need to go to the toilet, even though they may not be able to tell staff.”

Copies of the poster can be requested from the British Geriatrics Society on 020 7608 1369 or downloaded from the BGS website (Select Resources/Campaigns/Dignity 2012) A supportive resource page is also available.

For more information and interviews please contact Iona-Jane Harris on 07807 231432 or email


View/download the poster here