A guideline for urinary incontinence care among older adults in Japan has recommended that the care should be based on types and causes of urinary incontinence. This study examined nursing ward managers' perceptions regarding compliance of urinary continence care among nursing staff, for residents on short-stay respite services (SSRS) at health care facilities in Japan, and to examine the relationship between the compliance and residents' levels of activities of daily living upon discharge. We sent questionnaires to nursing managers at all facilities in the Kanto and Shinetsu regions in Japan (1072 facilities). The questionnaires asked about SSRS, compliance of urinary continence care for residents on the respite services and the residents' levels of activities of daily living upon discharge. A logistic regression analysis was performed with overall improvement of activities of daily living among the residents as a dependent variable and the factors that could be related to the activity levels and compliance of the care as independent variables. The final sample comprised 313 participants (response rate: 29·2%). Among the managers, 64·6% reported urinary incontinence types in the residents identified at their facilities, and 69·4% disagreed in response to a question on whether the activities of daily living levels of the residents had improved upon discharge. Logistic regression analysis showed that identifying urinary incontinence types (odds ratio 3·38, 95% confidence interval 1·71–6·69) was associated with improvement of activity levels for the residents. Identification of residents' urinary incontinence types should be carried out via systematic approaches by nursing staff.