Urinary Incontinence: A Neglected Geriatric Syndrome in Nursing Facilities

Document Type


Publication Date




Urinary incontinence (UI) is common but inadequately assessed and treated in nursing facility (NF) residents. The purpose of this study is two-fold: (1) to determine perceptions about the importance of UI and its management in the NF setting compared with other geriatric syndromes and (2) to compare barriers to UI care as perceived by physicians, geriatric nurse practitioners (GNPs), directors of nursing and other nurses in administrative positions (DONs), and nursing assistants (NAs).


Computer-based surveys of physicians and DONs and a hard copy survey of NAs at their national meetings; an online survey of GNPs.


Responses included 395 physicians (31% response rate), 152 DONs (34%), 118 GNPs (23%), and 277 NAs (60%). Physicians, GNPs, and DONs evaluated and managed UI significantly less often than 5 other geriatric syndromes (behavioral symptoms of dementia, falls, unintended weight loss, pain, and delirium). In contrast, NAs were more likely to be involved in UI care than in care provided for residents with any of the other 5 syndromes. All 4 groups agreed that UI has less effect on clinical outcomes than the other 5 syndromes. However, DONs rated UI first with respect to cost of care; NAs third behind falls and pain; and physicians and GNPs rated UI fourth behind falls, behavioral symptoms, and delirium. With respect to quality of life effects, physicians and GNPs rated UI fifth and fourth respectively and DONs fourth. In contrast, NAs rated UI second only to pain with respect to its effect on quality of life. Perceived barriers differ among the 4 groups with physicians relatively more concerned that drug treatment alone is ineffective (P = .002); GNPs relatively more concerned with lack of effective nondrug interventions (P = .001); and DONs relatively more concerned about sufficient time to assess and manage UI (P = .001). NA respondents rated concern about anticholinergic drug effects lower than did respondents in the other 3 groups (P = .001).


Physicians, GNPs, and DONs are more likely to be involved in evaluating and managing behavioral symptoms of dementia, pain, falls, delirium, and unintended weight loss than UI in the NF setting. This leaves NAs as first-line managers for a condition that they perceive to have an important impact on quality of life. Perceived barriers to improving UI care differ among the 4 groups suggesting that approaches to overcoming the barriers should be multi-faceted.



Find in your library

Off-Campus WSU Users