Impact and dignity

Living with incontinence can be challenging. People with the condition may feel uncomfortable discussing it with others, and may be embarrassed to admit they have a problem, which can result in them not getting the support and advice that could improve their quality of life.

The nature of the condition means that the person lives with the fear of having “accidents”, particularly in public, which can lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment resulting in social isolation.

“My wife would be horrified if she knew she had been incontinent. She has always been so immaculate and proud of her appearance” - Husband whose wife has dementia

"The staff are always so busy and I feel like a nuisance when I press the buzzer. I don’t want to have an accident. That would make more work for them” – 95-year-old inpatient

"Over time incontinence leads to a curtailment of daily activities e.g. going out, shopping etc. which decreases self-esteem"3


Many health care professionals lack the time and understanding to support people with incontinence effectively, which can lead to individuals being given inappropriate advice. Informal carers can feel overwhelmed and stressed and the daily management of incontinence can feel like a constant cycle of changing and washing. However, by introducing a continence strategy the individual, health care professional and informal carers can gain more control, as well as reduce the workload and enhance the quality of care provided.


"Dignity is concerned with how people feel, think and behave in relation to the worth or value of themselves and others. To treat someone with dignity is to treat them as being of worth, in a way that is respectful of them as valued individuals"

The RCN’s definition of dignity1

Dignified care should be person-centred and not just focused on tasks and processes. An important element of care is to be aware of and sensitive to the features of a person’s life, including their values, feelings and beliefs. Being in need of support, both physically and emotionally, can make anyone vulnerable.


If you would like to read more about dignity the following resources may be useful.

(1) The RCN’s definition of dignity. 2008.

(2) Dignity, Privacy and Confidentiality

(3) Cartwright R, Srikrishna S, Cardozo L, Robinson D. Validity and reliability of the patient’s perception of intensity of urgency scale in overactive bladder. BJU International. 2010.

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