Around 850,000 people in the UK have dementia, with numbers set to rise as our population ages. Ensuring that all people with dementia receive high quality, compassionate care from diagnosis through to end of life is a real challenge for our health and care services – and one which collaborative research can make a significant contribution to.
Researchers at Bournemouth University, funded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing, have been working with local care homes in Dorset to explore the issue of helping people with dementia in care homes to eat and drink well. Weight loss is very common in people with dementia and can have a serious impact on their overall physical and mental well-being. By working together with local care homes, Dr Jane Murphy (Associate Professor) and Joanne Holmes (Lecturer in Nutrition) have developed brand new training resources for all staff responsible for care to ensure that people with dementia eat and drink well.
They will be presenting these resources and insights into their research project at the Dementia 2020 conference in London on 12 April; a series of conferences designed to support the government’s vision of creating a society where everyone with dementia receives high quality care by 2020.
“We are delighted to be able to share our resources and knowledge gained from our research project at the Dementia 2020 conference,” says lead researcher, Dr Jane Murphy.
“Ensuring people with dementia are eating and drinking well is a really important part of providing excellent, high quality care,” continues Dr Murphy, “As dementia progresses, it can become increasingly difficult for people to sense their thirst and hunger or to communicate their needs, which means there’s a real risk of people becoming malnourished or losing a lot of weight. This can then have knock-on effects for their overall health and wellbeing.”
“Thanks to generous support from the Burdett Trust, we’ve been able to work with local care homes, care staff and people with dementia to explore the issue and develop training tools. We know that care staff are extremely busy and taking time to travel to training sessions can be difficult, so we have designed a workbook and training film that can be used at any time,” explains Dr Murphy.
“The training tools explain why ensuring good nutrition is essential and provides practical tips for how staff can support people to eat and drink as part of their person-centred care. These range from getting to know people’s personal preferences, ideas for encouraging people to drink enough, developing appealing menus and even improving the environment for meal times,” says Dr Murphy, “Working collaboratively with care staff was essential to developing these resources as we were able to draw on the expertise of and best practice used by frontline-staff.”