Care Plans

National Continence Helpline

8am - 8pm Monday to Friday AEST Talk to a continence nurse

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What is a continence assessment?

A continence assessment is a detailed assessment:

  • of how the person's bladder and bowel are working
  • of any issues the person has getting to, or using, the toilet
  • to work out if the person has incontinence and what type of incontinence they have.

This helps the health care professional to find out what's causing the continence issues and what's the best way to treat it.

There are many different things that can cause problems with passing urine and faeces. Some people can be cured with the right treatment. For other people, the problem may not be able to be cured but can be better managed.

A continence assessment may not be finished in a single visit. Information may need to be gathered about the person's health, symptoms, normal bladder and bowel habits, and what help they need. This information will need to be collected by everybody who helps to support the person. This includes the person themselves, their family, support workers, their general practitioner (GP) or other health care professional, such a physiotherapist and occupational therapist.

Once all the information is collected, the person doing the assessment can diagnose the issues and write a continence care plan.

What information is collected?

The information collected for a continence assessment can include:

  • the continence goals the person would like to achieve
  • the person's current bladder and bowel habits
  • what issues they have passing urine or faeces or both
  • what aids they need to use the toilet
  • what continence products they currently use
  • how much help they need to use the toilet
  • any other health issues or conditions
  • information about previous illnesses or operations
  • what medicines they take
  • how much and what type of food and drinks they regularly consume
  • what their home environment is like
  • a physical examination, if the person agrees
  • if there is already a continence care plan in place. If so, how well the current plan works.

How can you help with a continence assessment?

  • Talk to the assessor about what you know about the person's bladder and bowel habits, especially if the person is unable to speak for themselves.
  • If possible, arrange for the family to be present with the person during the assessment.
  • Provide a private and quiet space for the assessment visits.
  • Complete bladder and bowel diaries if needed.
  • Collect any other information the assessor needs between visits.
  • Tell the assessor any other information that you think might be helpful.

Who does continence assessments?

Everyone involved in supporting the person, including the person themselves, provides information to help complete the assessment.

A health care professional with extra training and knowledge about normal bladder and bowel function, as well as the management of incontinence, completes the detailed assessment.

This could be:

  • a continence nurse advisor
  • the person's GP
  • a physiotherapist who specialises in bladder and bowel health.

Call the National Continence Helpline 18OO 33 OO 66 for information on local continence services who can help.

Need more help? Call the National Continence Helpline on 18OO 33 OO 66 and talk to a continence nurse advisor.

Extra Resources

Take the Quiz

Question 1

A continence assessment:

isn't worth doing because you can't cure the problem

collects information about someone's bladder and bowel function

can only be done by the family

costs a lot of money.

Question 2

A suitable person to do a continence assessment is:

the person's GP

a continence nurse advisor

a specialist physiotherapist

all of the above.

Question 3

A continence assessment may include:

a physical examination

forcing the person to go to the toilet

a physical stress test

taking laxatives.

Question 4

A support worker may help with the assessment by:

deciding what medicines the person should stop taking

providing a private and quiet space for the assessment visit

telling the family to stay away

not being involved in the assessment.

This information is not a substitute for independent professional advice.