A journey towards continence through emancipatory action research


  • Lucienne J.R. Frey-Hoogwerf RN Cert Gerontology Nursing BSc MN

    Corresponding author
    1. Clinical Nurse Consultant Gerontology, Auckland Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand.
    Search for more papers by this author

Lucienne Frey-Hoogwerf, HSE, Auckland Hospital, Private bag 92024, Auckland 1, New Zealand.


Emancipatory action research was used to assist four women in developing an understanding of the feelings and reactions associated with urinary incontinence. The four participants initially expressed feelings of anger, embarrassment and frustration towards their urinary incontinence, perceiving it as a threat to their self-esteem. Through reflection they discovered that they held several misconceptions about urinary incontinence. They believed that it was a result of childbirth and ageing, and that little to nothing could be done to treat it. During the study, which took place over a period of 5 months, the women's level of knowledge, confidence and trust increased leading to the formulation of new insights. This enabled them to actively deal with their concerns and to initiate change. The resulting action plans incorporated conservative treatment plans and the development of a support group. Six weeks after commencement of the study, three of the four women regained continence. The fourth participant reported a significant improvement in both frequency of incontinence episodes and quality of life.