Continence: The taboo topic we need to talk about

June 20, 2022

Nearly 10 per cent of Canadians have a condition that seriously impacts their quality of life, causing social isolation and withdrawal. It’s a widespread problem, especially with older adults because it increases with aging, yet more than half won’t discuss their condition with a primary care provider. It is the number one reason for premature admission to long-term care homes.

We’re talking about urinary incontinence. 

Bowel and bladder function have historically been a taboo subject that people are embarrassed to discuss. But 3.5 million Canadians find they leak urine when they walk, cough, sneeze, laugh, lift or exercise, or find they aren’t able to make it to the bathroom “in time.” 

“Urinary incontinence is a sensitive topic and often a secret. If health-care providers don’t create a safe space to talk about it, people won’t tell. Because they are unaware they can get the help they need, people may withdraw from activities, become isolated and experience a reduced quality of life,” says Mary Kjorven, an Interior Health clinical nurse specialist and nurse continence advisor.

According to the Canadian Urinary Bladder Survey, 16 per cent of men and 33 per cent of women over the age of 40 have symptoms of urinary incontinence. 

Despite popular misconceptions, urinary incontinence is not a normal part of aging. It is a treatable symptom of a medical condition.  

There are a wide range of therapies available, ranging from the non-invasive (lifestyle modifications, behavioral changes, fluid changes), to medications and surgical procedures.

Education is key and there are a number of resources available, including services from a nurse continence advisor, physiotherapists with specialties in pelvic floor function, nurses specializing in wound, ostomy and continence, and evidence-based websites, including the Canadian Continence Foundation.

“Getting help early prevents the problem from getting worse,” says Mary. “We have done a great job improving oral health in our society - we have incorporated brushing our teeth into our daily routines and as a result children get fewer cavities. We need to do the same thing with bowel and bladder health, beginning by making it safe to talk about.”


Read our latest stories

3 Minute Read
Health & Wellness

Bats play an essential role in our ecosystem, but can carry diseases like rabies. Learn how to stay safe from bats and prevent disease.

2 Minute Read
Community & Culture

Glenn Charbonneau has always had a passion for human movement, but it wasn’t until an encounter that he felt compelled to get into physiotherapy.

5 Minute Read
Health & Wellness

Elizabeth has been caring for her son Anakin his whole life, who was born at 22 weeks. She's a proud caregiver & wants to share her story with other caregivers.

3 Minute Read
Health & Wellness

Hantavirus is a rare but serious disease caused by inhaling hantaviruses in old rodent droppings or urine. Learn how to protect yourself while cleaning.

4 Minute Read
Community & Culture, Health & Wellness

There may come a time in life where there will be a need for extra help with living at home. A wide range of services are available to you through IH.

6 Minute Read
Health & Wellness

Your emergency kit should always include critical supplies like water, food, and a wind-up radio, but you can also add items that are unique to your situation.


Receive news and alert posts, and Stories@IH blog posts, right to your inbox!