Aim. This is a review of descriptive studies with incontinence as the primary focus in older people in care homes. Background. Incontinence is prevalent among residents of care home populations. Data sources. MEDLINE and CINAHL were searched from 1996 to 2007 using the highly sensitive search strings of the Cochrane Incontinence Review Group for urinary and faecal incontinence including all research designs. Search strings were modified to enhance selectiveness for care homes and older people and exclude studies involving surgical or pharmacological interventions. Searching of reference sections from identified studies was also used to supplement electronic searches. The Cochrane Library was searched for relevant systematic reviews to locate relevant studies from those included or excluded from reviews. The search was limited to English-language publications. Methods. A systematic review of studies on the management of incontinence, promotion of continence or maintenance of continence in care homes was conducted in 2007–2009. This is a report of descriptive studies. Results. Ten studies were identified that reported on prevalence and incidence of incontinence (urinary with or without faecal), policies, assessment, documentation, management or economic evaluation of its management. Use of incontinence pads and toileting programmes comprised the most common management approaches used. No studies were identified that attempted to maintain continence of residents in care homes. Conclusions. Studies on maintaining continence and identifying components of toileting programmes that are successful in managing or preventing incontinence and promoting continence in residents of care home populations along with their economic evaluation are warranted.