Authors: Dr Joan Ostaszkiewicz, Dr Jessica Cecil, Dr Elizabeth Pascoe and Elizabeth Watt

When Maureen’s husband was diagnosed with dementia 10 years ago it represented a gradual but significant change in the dynamic of their relationship.

“Going from a relationship of being a wife, to being a carer, you need to get past that barrier. I think initially it was the grief. For a year or so, I was grieving the loss of my husband, the loss of his ability to look after himself and the loss of intimacy in our marriage.

Ever since an article about Robert ‘Dipper’ DiPierdomenico’s experience with urinary retention was published in the Herald Sun Newspaper in December 2022, he has been continuously approached by people with similar stories. “What they commonly say to me is this is happening to me too, what should I do?” he says. Sometimes he is approached by women who’ve recognised similar symptoms in their male partners and want them to seek help. “My advice is to always go straight to your GP,” he says. “Help is available so go and get it so you can get on with living a better life.”

When we think about the cost of incontinence, we mainly think about continence pads or products you wear to contain or absorb any leakage, but there are a lot more expenses faced by someone living with incontinence than this. The cost of incontinence can affect many aspects of a person’s life. The costs may be direct (e.g. continence pads), indirect (e.g. loss of wages due to sick leave) and intangible (e.g. psychosocial costs such as stress and decreased quality of life costs). To summarise, these include:

My name is Stephen Jones and I am recovering from cancer. I am 58 years of age (56 at time of surgery). I have a beautiful, supportive wife, Robyn and three adult children. I live in Melbourne. 

My cancer is of the prostate gland, a part of the body that is hidden deep in the recesses of the pelvic region in males. It’s not outwardly visible, its rarely spoken about and most men don’t even know its function. I didn’t really know what its function was, even though my father had the same affliction 25 years prior to mine.

“It’s so important to talk about incontinence and it helps to raise awareness, acceptance and understanding,” says John who experienced incontinence for the first time after prostate cancer surgery. Whilst he doesn’t deny it was a shock, he wants to talk openly in the interest of supporting others. “If we talk about it, it’s easier for others to understand the issue and remove the barriers to seeking help,” he observes.   

Over 5 million Australians, 1 in 4 people aged 15 years or over, experience bladder or bowel incontinence. Incontinence is not just a woman’s or an older person’s issue, nor is it an inevitable part of ageing. Incontinence is a common condition that can be treated and proactively managed. Incontinence can affect people at any age, but in many cases, it can be prevented, better managed or even cured. Seeking advice from a health professional is the first step to recovery. 

Margaret is a perfect example of a woman in her 70s who is busy, active and living her best life despite having to manage a challenging and sometimes changeable daily bowel routine. 

“I want to raise awareness about incontinence, open the dialogue and encourage people to feel comfortable talking about it,” says Caitlyn Davey, a journalist who lives with a neurogenic bladder. Caitlyn’s condition means she does not have control over her bladder and needs to self-catheterise, emptying her bladder with a catheter at regular times during the day, for the rest of her life.

Welcome to the Winter edition of Bridge Magazine. In this issue we acknowledge World Continence Week, 19 to 25 June, with a focus on the lived experience of incontinence. Over five million Australians, one in four people, aged 15 years or over, experience bladder or bowel incontinence. In this edition, we share the stories from a diverse range of people with lived experience, including Hawthorn Premiership hero and Brownlow Medalist Robert “Dipper” DiPierdomenico.      

Every year, the Continence Foundation of Australia calls for nominations for the Carer of the Year Award, which publicly acknowledges the vital role that carers play in supporting the health and wellbeing of so many in our community. The Carer of the Year Award was presented during the National Conference on Incontinence in June 2023.
The recipient of the 2023 Carer of the Year Award is Jenny Roe, who was nominated by continence nurse, Bronwyn Peck.

Welcome to the Autumn edition of Bridge. In this issue we focus on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), clarifying the differences between them and acknowledging that loss of bowel continence can be experienced by many people with these conditions.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a collective term for chronic inflammation in the digestive tract, namely Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The main symptoms are pain, diarrhoea, fever, weight loss, fatigue and potentially anaemia. Symptoms may be different for each person and range in severity from mild to more serious, depending on the level of inflammation. Given the similarity to other digestive conditions, several tests usually need to be done to ensure accurate diagnosis.

Although Rhiannon’s journey with Crohn’s disease began relatively recently, the striking thing about her is her determination to put the things she loves foremost in her life. Rhiannon went from being very fit and active to developing a condition which she says has completely changed her life. However, she is determined to get on and do the things she enjoys, like travelling and socialising with friends.

Since the launch of the BINS4Blokes campaign in June 2021, 50 businesses, councils and other organisations have joined the call to support over one million men around Australia who live with incontinence.

At least 1.34 million Australian boys and men are living with urinary or faecal incontinence today, however male toilets do not provide a hygienic and dedicated disposal method for incontinence products such as pads and pull ups.

Whilst travelling in Europe during a heat wave several years ago, Emily became extremely hot and thirsty. Heading to the nearest water fountain she had filled up her water bottle and drained its contents before realising the water wasn’t suitable for drinking. “The next day I was standing in a queue for the Uffizi gallery in Florence when I realised I urgently needed to get to the toilet”, she says, “I literally ran to the nearest one and sat there for quite a while before I was confident to leave“.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Definition: recurring abdominal pain at least once per week in the last three months with two or more of the following features:

Kathryn Sloots is a Registered Nurse with a science degree and PhD who has worked for 18 years in the areas of bowel and bladder continence (including anorectal biofeedback, urodynamics, research and education). She has published several papers on bowel continence and presented at continence conferences.

By Nicole Torrington, Senior Marketing Officer

Leanne has always been a traveller at heart, having visited 30 countries before she turned 30. She had met her husband in Ireland, spent time in London and regularly went to visit her best friend who lived in Germany.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides individualised support for people with a permanent and significant disability. The scheme is administered by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and is designed for individual control with greater flexibility and choice.

What will the NDIS fund?


Last Updated: Tue 19, Apr 2022
Last Reviewed: Tue 17, Mar 2020