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Continence management in patients with dementia

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There is a growing elderly population in the UK and, with this demographic change, comes an increase in the prevalence of degenerative conditions like dementia.

The term 'dementia' describes a syndrome that may be caused by a number of illnesses and is associated with ongoing decline of function of the brain and its abilities. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia.1

In the UK there is an estimated 750,000 people with dementia and numbers are expected to double in the next 30 years.2

Government policy aims to avoid hospital admissions and support older people to live at home for as long as possible. Community nurses will increasingly play a key role in supporting those who care for people with dementia and must understand the complex issues associated with dementia; this article focuses specifically on continence care of the person with dementia.

Incontinence is defined as the involuntary or inappropriate passing of urine/faeces that has an impact on social functioning or hygiene.3 The exact incidence of incontinence among people with dementia is unsubstantiated by research, but it is estimated that 80-90 per cent experience urinary or faecal incontinence, or both.4

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