Article Text

Care of continence during the terminal phase of illness
  1. Gaye Kyle, Senior Lecturer
  1. Faculty of Health and Human Sciences, Thames Valley University, Slough. Email: gaye.kyle{at} or gayekyle{at}


This article will explore the issue of continence care during the terminal phase of life. This period is often referred to as ‘the end of life’ or ‘the last 48 hours’. Patients are thought to be in the dying phase of their illness when they only have hours or days left to live (referred to as the ‘terminal phase’ in this article). Continence care is complex during the terminal phase as it can have a significant impact on the dignity of patients and adds to their physical and emotional burden. The care given is both intimate and embarrassing, often involving invasive procedures, at a time when patients may be unable to make choices. Therefore, discussion of possible continence problems should be broached sensitively with patients when they are still able to make decisions on their preference for continence care. However, continence problems during the terminal phase are unpredictable, leaving healthcare professionals unprepared on how to best treat the symptoms of urinary and bowel problems. This article explores the available interventions and their appropriateness to the terminal phase. Conflicts of interest: none

  • Constipation
  • Faecal incontinence
  • Loss of dignity
  • Terminal agitation
  • Urinary incontinence

Statistics from

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.