The research

Around 850,000 people in the UK have some form of dementia, with numbers expected to rise as people are living longer. As the disease progresses, it’s not unusual for people to lose weight, which can lead to further physical and mental decline.  

Ensuring that people are eating and drinking enough is an important part of providing good quality care for someone with dementia living in a care home, but can become increasingly challenging as the disease progresses. The reasons behind this can be complex and can relate to physical difficulties with swallowing, being unable to remember when they last ate or drank, or no longer being able to sense hunger and thirst.

BU’s Associate Professor Jane Murphy and Lecturer Joanne Holmes have been working in partnership with care homes, councils and care givers in Dorset to explore the problem and find ways to support staff to provide excellent care. 

Thanks to funding from the Burdett Trust for Nursing, the team have been able to produce professional training resources which are already being used in care homes and universities across the country.

The impact

Mark Gretton, Lecturer in Nursing at the University of Hull – has been using the workbook and DVD as part of his dementia care modules

“I became aware of this work while attending the study day set up as part of the project to disseminate the research findings. Nutrition for people living with dementia has up until now been an under-researched area, so this work and the excellent workbook and DVD that have been produced in the light of it are extremely timely.

“I have subsequently used these resources as key elements for our dementia care modules at associate practitioner, degree and Master’s level. The students on all of these programmes have found them beneficial. We are planning to continue to use these materials for these modules and are also looking to utilise them as part of the dementia provision in our preregistration all nursing fields programme.”

The academic

Associate Professor Jane Murphy, Registered Nutritionist and Dietitian – leading the project alongside Joanne Holmes

“As part of our research, we worked with staff in local care homes to monitor how much people with dementia were eating and drinking.

“Our results showed that around half weren’t eating enough to meet their daily energy needs. There can be all sorts of reasons behind this – we know there are both physical and psychological causes."

The student

Sabina Katsberg BSc (Hons) Psychology – supported the project in her role as an Undergraduate Research Assistant

“I wanted to become an Undergraduate Research Assistant because it was an excellent opportunity to get involved with current research that’s making a difference to people’s lives.

“During my time working on the project, I went to events focusing on dementia care, where I helped with the dissemination and evaluation of the workbook developed for care homes.

“It’s made me think about research in a very different way."