We’re all taught that oral health is essential to keep our teeth healthy but what does this really mean? Poor oral health can lead to malnutrition, pneumonia and a weakened immune system which can make it harder to recover from common illnesses. Studies are being conducted to see whether dental hygiene has any links to dementia. So how can we encourage better dental hygiene?
Getting people you support to the dentist is no easy feat. Dental practices aren’t always accessible, medical settings can be quite distressing and getting there requires accessible transport and extra staff. Instead of taking the people you support to the dentist, why not bring the dentist to you? Domiciliary dental services provide dental care right at home.
Some local NHS trusts offer training on dental health for a few members of staff, appointing these staff members as Oral Health Champions. These Champions undertake the training and the responsibility of training existing and new staff. Ensuring your service is working to the NICE guidelines and the Oral Health policy could also become part of the Champions’ role.
Activities are a simple and fun way to encourage conversations about good oral health. Brushing your teeth may not seem fun but, depending on the people you supports abilities, it can be! If you have any keen knitters, download knitting patterns for knitting teeth, tooth fairies or tooth fairy pouches for grandchildren, young relatives and friends’ children. Arty people could have a go at crafting teeth and toothbrushes out of leftover cardboard and painting them. If you have any connections to a local school or nursery, invite them over (Covid-19 permitting) for a lesson on mouthcare. You could even have a sensory afternoon of science experiments, making elephant toothpaste, growing plaque with yeast and sugar and, egg brushing.
The Nourish platform allows dental hygiene to be logged, tracked and managed and provides an Oral Health Assessment Tool (OHAT) for new admissions. In Nourish, you are able to plan, manage and evidence dental appointments and visits and use the OHAT for regular reviews on the oral health of those you support. The Alerts and Warnings function can ensure appointments and reviews are not missed. Because dental health can have a significant impact on the general health of the people you support, the ability to monitor means early intervention is possible.
Getting enough fluids is incredibly important for our health, and even more so the older we get. After all, our bodies are made up of mostly water, and our organs need water in order to function properly and remain healthy. It may seem so simple to drink water, but there are so many things that can cause us to lose fluids without even realising it. Here’s our top tips on how to prevent, detect and treat dehydration in older adults.
Dehydration can become far more serious than we might imagine, especially for the elderly. As we age, the body loses its ability to retain as much water, meaning older adults need to ensure they are re-hydrating more frequently. Again, the answer seems so simple – drink more water, but the older we get, we also begin to lose our sense of thirst! This means we may not realise that we’re becoming dehydrated, so by the time we reach the point we feel thirsty, we’re essentially already dehydrated.
There are many different opinions on how much water one should drink daily, but the NHS website recommends 6-8 glasses as best practice. However, this really depends on a number of factors such as how active you are, what climate you live in and your height and size.
We get about 20% of our water intake from our food, so the general rule of thumb is to aim for around two litres of water per day, topping that up when it’s hot or if we’re doing exercise. And as mentioned above, if you’re thirsty, this means you’re already dehydrated, so it’s important to get into the habit of drinking small amounts throughout the day to keep your fluid levels up.
There are a number of different reasons why dehydration can be more common in the elderly, and it’s important to be aware of these so that you can spot the signs of dehydration early. In recognising these factors, you can be better equipped to prevent, detect and treat dehydration in older adults.
Medication is something to be mindful of when trying to prevent and detect and treat dehydration in older adults as certain medications can cause excess loss of fluids and electrolytes. This is why you may notice your doctor telling you to drink more water than usual when taking a course of antibiotics, for example. If you have older adults in your care taking daily prescription meds, extra fluid intake should become a natural part of their routine.
Older adults may start to experience incontinence issues, which can make them reluctant to drink fluids regularly in case they have an accident. This can be extremely harmful to the body, so it’s important for anyone experiencing these types of issues to speak with their GP for advice on how to control incontinence in a safe way.
Older adults living with dementia may forget to carry out daily routines such as drinking water, so it’s important that those caring for people with dementia keep track of fluid intake and encourage it regularly. In advanced stages of Dementia, patients can sometimes develop dysphagia which is difficulty swallowing – making the basic act of drinking water incredibly painful. In these cases, providing fluids intravenously may be the best way to prevent dehydration.
It is important for carers, and the elderly themselves to be able to spot the signs of dehydration quickly in order to treat them, but many of the early signs of dehydration can easily be ignored or misdiagnosed.
Early signs of dehydration can include obvious symptoms such as thirst, and can also commonly present itself in headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue and lethargy, infrequent and dark urine. Most of these early signs of dehydration can be treated simply by immediately increasing fluid intake. The easiest way to know whether you’re hydrated enough is to check the colour of your urine. A light yellow or clear colour indicates hydration levels are all good.
However, more severe signs of dehydration may include diarrhea and vomiting, confusion, and blood in your stools. If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or someone in your care, it is important to contact the GP immediately for medical intervention.
Water is undoubtedly the best option when replenishing fluids, however any drinks will contribute to your daily fluid levels. It is generally advised that caffeinated drinks such as coffee aren’t the best source for hydration because they can have a diuretic effect, but that’s not to say these drinks should be avoided altogether as part of a balanced diet.
Alcohol is also not recommended, especially in people who are already dehydrated as this will just make things worse. Older adults can also be very susceptible to Urinary Tract Infections, bladder and kidney problems, which can all be triggered by dehydration.
Of course, the best way to prevent, detect and treat dehydration in older adults is to encourage more fluid intake. Hydration can often be something we forget about, but with some of the issues listed above, it’s imperative that older adults in care are encouraged to drink more in any way possible. Tips you can try include:
If you are someone caring for an elderly person and you’re concerned about dehydration, keep a log of fluid intake. You can also make note of bathroom trips, diet, mood and anything else that may be affected by their hydration levels.
Overall, water plays an amazing role in the healthy functioning of our bodies, from assisting the heart in efficiently pumping blood around our bodies, to flushing out toxins from our liver and other organs. Drinking water has a huge range of health benefits including giving you more energy, improving skin, weight loss and it can even reduce your risk of heart attack.
To find out more about how Nourish can help you track and monitor things such as fluid intake, book a demo today!
The UK’s population is growing rapidly, and the over 60s make up over 20% of us. With people living longer, there is expected to be over 3 million people aged 85+ by 2041. With this in mind, the growing number of elderly people living in residential care homes is also set to increase dramatically, but are they getting the quality of life they deserve in social care?
The ever-growing population means an increasing demand on the social care sector, and while we often think of care in a physical sense, mental health care is of equal importance and can often be overlooked due to not recognising the signs. This is something that could be said for society in general, and in recent years there has been a huge emphasis on recognising mental health and just how big an impact it can have on our lives.
The World Health Organisation reported that around 15% of those aged 60+ suffer from a mental disorder and have said that mental health problems are often under-identified by healthcare professionals as well as older people themselves, as the stigma surrounding these conditions contribute to making people reluctant to seek help.
Those in care homes may be more far more susceptible to these challenges for a number of reasons. Depression and loneliness are extremely common in the elderly, and being in an unfamiliar setting or environment can often be distressing (particularly for those who also have Dementia), so that initial transition from independent life into a social care setting is one of the most important times to be conscious of the possible signs of declining mental health.
Despite the fact we’re all living longer and staying active into later life, there is still a stigma around getting older. This is not something that should be feared, and the care that is provided to the elderly should be reflecting this key message. I’m sure most of us would struggle with the thought of getting older if it means we lose the ability to do certain things independently, which is why it is important that those in care experience very the best quality of life possible, maintaining both their dignity and their happiness.
This is best achieved through a person-centred approach to care. The person-centred approach is all about understanding the individuals’ needs and providing a unique care routine that works for them, rather than treating everyone the same. What works for one person may not for another, so here are five ways you can help improve the mental health and well-being in elderly care homes
The best way to keep the mind healthy is to keep it stimulated and active, which is why it’s so incredibly important to encourage elderly residents to participate in a number of activities throughout their week. A sign that they might not be feeling themselves is a sudden disinterest in socialising, engaging in activities or doing things they usually enjoy, so if you notice someone is not joining in as much, consider why that is and think about how you could shake up their routine.
Better still, speak to them and find out what things they would enjoy or are in the mood to do. Activities should be of genuine personal interest to individuals in order to really enrich their lives, and what one person likes, the other may not. For example, some activities on offer may not be suitable for some people with physical or learning difficulties, so it’s important to come up with a range of different activities that can be enjoyed by all.
Just because someone has moved into a social care setting, doesn’t mean they instantly lose their own individualism and identity, it’s important for carers to strongly encourage those they support to continue to embrace their personal identity.
If you want to improve mental health and well-being in elderly care homes, then simply having meaningful conversations about someone’s past, looking through old photos, and sharing stories with them, will allow carers to connect with those they support on a much deeper level; as a person rather than a “patient”. By finding out more about someone’s personal history and life, carers can better cater to their individual needs in care, and allow them to feel like they are still living their own life or have a sense of independence.
Dignity is extremely important to identity, and elderly people in care should be encouraged to do as much for themselves as possible, wherever possible, and this can be as simple as picking out their clothing and deciding what they want to do or eat that day.
Relationships are an important, if not an integral, part of who we are, and therefore play a huge role in the improvement of mental health and well-being in elderly care homes. As we have mentioned, loneliness is one of the primary causes of depression in the elderly population, and for some, their carer may be the only person they see or speak to all day. Those in residential care should be encouraged to stay social as often as possible, with visits from family and friends, or speaking on the phone/video calling if they are not able to come in person.
Having familiar faces in a care setting can be extremely helpful for someone trying to relax and feel more at ease, especially if they are in a new environment for the first time. It’s good to encourage friendships with others in care, and to form bonds with people they have daily interactions with. If someone suddenly stops wanting visitors or to interact and engage with other residents, this is almost definitely a sign that they are not quite feeling themselves or are feeling anxious or and depressed.
If someone is dealing with pain physically, this often affects the mind too. It is important to be incredibly thorough when checking in with those you support, as pain may not simply and clearly present itself to the eye. A lot of people can be embarrassed about an issue or not want to speak up and cause a fuss, so be sure to talk to them, and encourage them to open up about any discomfort they may be experiencing.
It is also really important to take physical or digital notes on any physical ailments, so that the right care can be provided and you can allow them to be seen by a healthcare professional if needed. This means you can tailor the care they receive and any activities they do to ensure maximum comfort and well-being.
Everyone’s mood fluctuates, and this could be for a number of reasons which are all very normal. It could be they’re simply not a morning person or they get cranky when they’re hungry, but it’s important to recognise when dips in mood could be an indication of something more serious.
In order to improve mental health and well-being in elderly care homes, it’s worth keeping track and logging the changing moods of the people you support. In doing so, you can gain a deeper understanding of trends (low mood linked to medication, for example), or whether there is something else that needs to be addressed.
Depression can present itself in many different ways which can often be so subtle that they get missed entirely. A person-centred approach to care requires carers to really get to know and understand the individual needs of those they support, so that they can quickly notice personality changes that might be a sign of depression or other mental health issues.
Those are our 5 ways to improve mental health and well-being in elderly care homes. At Nourish, we’re all about keeping people connected and promoting person-centered care. For more information on how we can help improve the health and wellbeing in your care homes, get in touch with the team or book a demo.
Today’s article looks at some of the great new tools being pioneered by the Bournemouth University Dementia Institute (BUDI) to help carers to improve the way they provide good hydration and nutrition to those in their care with dementia. We caught up with Jane Murphy who heads up the research, at a recent seminar hosted by the Hampshire Care Association and the rest of the article is formed from our conversations.
At Nourish we know that many people in care who suffer with dementia struggle with eating and drinking. This is often a contributing factor to poor health, reduced quality of life, and accelerate deterioration as a person’s dementia develops. It is also an increasing problem as care providers must meet Regulation 14 of the Health and Social Care Act to ensure that the people they look after have enough to eat and drink. This isn’t just about enough food and drink to meet their nutrition and hydration needs, but also they must receive the support they need to do so.
As we know, the old adage of, “you get out what you put in” is never more true than with your body and the nutrients you take. Therefore, supporting older people who have dementia to eat and drink properly should be a priority for care staff. However, despite the importance, there are a lack of research, evidence and tools to support good practice. This becomes clear when you realise that there are no standardised approaches or training programmes to provide staff with information about nutrition for people with dementia.
The BUDI secured funding from the Burdett Trust for Nursing, allowing Jane and the team of researchers at Bournemouth University to work with care providers, charities and local authorities in Dorset to research best practice in more detail and create the means to support care to provide robust nutritional care.
Jane and BUDI’s research culminated in a report called “Eating and Drinking well: supporting people living with dementia”. The report also includes a training film which can help show carers how to improve their practices and enhance their skills to provide a better eating and drinking experience for people in their care, who’re living with dementia.
You can access the training film online by visiting the BUDI area of Bournemouth University’s website. Jane’s team also developed a training book to be used alongside the video, which is packed with best practice, tips and concepts to try out, including:
More information about the workbook, and BUDI can be found by visiting Understanding Nutrition and Dementia.
Alternatively learn more about how our community builder, Ian, is raising awareness for dementia .