Stop laughing off incontinence

bowel cancer screening: open toilet on black background

Pharmacists can play a key role in helping incontinence be taken seriously

As it gets ready for World Continence Week in June, the Continence Foundation of Australia has highlighted survey results showing 72% of affected women have laughed off the issue in social settings.

The survey, of 1000 women with continence problems, showed that a whopping 84% felt their problem was just part of having children or ageing, and 80% had not taken any action to treat or manage it.

The theme for this year’s World Continence Week (June 19-25) is Incontinence: No Laughing Matter.

Continence Foundation of Australia chief executive Rowan Cockerell says pharmacists’ front-line role in delivering health services is vital in promoting World Continence Week’s key message that continence should never be ignored or laughed off, and should be professionally treated .

“We know that incontinence invariably worsens over time if ignored, and can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, with both men and women, at any age, at a higher risk of depression,” she says.

Ms Cockerell says pharmacists can help mitigate the burden of incontinence by taking a person-centred approach.

“For example, learning how to take a good history, understanding the importance of pelvic floor exercises, knowing where the local continence services and physios are, and knowing what financial subsidies are available such as CAPS (Continence Aids Payment Scheme),” Ms Cockerell says.

“I think it’s important for pharmacists to have a good understanding of continence problems and to be able to confidently discuss the causes, options and treatments with consumers.”

Having up-to-date knowledge of medications that can exacerbate incontinence, and any contraindications was also vital, she said. Being aware of associated risks, such as the increased falls risk with nocturia, and the greater risk of prolapse associated with osteoporosis will also inform pharmacists’ choices.

The prevalence of incontinence is estimated to increase to 6.5 million by 2030, and pharmacists will be increasingly called upon to provide support to their customers.

In recognition of this, the Continence Foundation of Australia and the Guild Pharmacy Academy have developed two free online CPD-accredited courses, Continence care for pharmacists and Continence care for pharmacy assistants. (Click here or phone 03 9810 9930 for more information.)

Pharmacists are also able to speak with continence nurse advisors on the National Continence Helpline (1800 33 00 66) for clinical advice, information and resources week days from 8am to 8pm AEST. The service is also available to consumers, and non-English speaking patients can access an interpreter on 131 450. A range of resources, including videos, an online forum, and fact sheets in 30 languages, is available at

Pharmacists can also download or order posters for World Continence Week 2017, by phoning 1800 33 00 66 or going to

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