At our Worcester care home we take facing up to the challenge of oral care very seriously. Oral health is very important for anyone’s overall health and wellbeing, even more so when caring for the elderly, since dental needs can become increasingly complex with age. This is why professional oral care and support forms an important component of the care home care we offer at Stanfield Nursing Home.
Looking after oral health brings benefits in terms of one’s self-esteem, social integration, nutrition and dignity. Decline can lead to pain, discomfort and ultimately tooth loss. This can negatively impact a person’s sense of self esteem, in addition to affecting on a practical level in terms of eating, laughing and smiling. Dental disease can take many forms but the two most common are gum and tooth decay.
Our approach and ethos at Stanfield is that we are passionate about enabling our residents to live as independently as possible, providing appropriate support where necessary, and we will always therefore encourage the treatment of dental issues. However, as part of our commitment to residential care for the elderly, we also recognise that at times we have no choice but to respect personal choice. In situations such as this, we would look to find a mutually suitable solution to overcome any detriment to oral health.
Some Of The Common Care Home Oral Care Challenges We Find At Stanfield
Dentures are commonplace at Stanfield and if not removed and cleaned daily, they can cause plaque to build up - making it important oral hygiene is maintained to avoid gum disease and tooth decay caused by wearing them. If not suitably lubricated either, dentures can become loose and cause pain. Where repetitive and involuntary movements occur in the jaw and tongue, because of certain conditions, such as Parkinson’s Disease, or medications such as those prescribed for psychosis, dentures can also be made difficult to wear and additional oral hygiene care may be required.
As part of our continuous professional development policy, we run regular training sessions on oral care. Yvonne, our oral champion, is the flag bearer but we make sure that all of the nursing and auxiliary staff are well equipped to provide our residents with the care and support they may require.
To help them appreciate the experience from the perspective of our residents, all of our care home staff have to undergo having their teeth cleaned by someone else as part of their training.
I’ve had it done too. And, whilst cleaning my own teeth is OK, this was a very different experience and not a most pleasant one.
Nonetheless, doing so enables us to gain a greater understanding so we can approach the provision of oral care with greater compassion.
The benefits of our staff training policy are backed up by a study into dentistry in care homes, conducted by the British Dental Association in 2012, which found that providing instruction to care staff has been shown to improve the oral health of nursing homes residents. The same study also highlighted some of the common oral care challenges experienced by nursing homes, citing the main reason for oral health decline as the result of resistance to treatment or advice. A situation particularly commonplace in residents who have dementia.
Dementia is a progressive condition, therefore it’s important to establish a routine with dementia care as soon as possible after diagnosis. If our patrons are diagnosed with dementia whilst already living at our care home Worcester, we will help to establish such a routine. If diagnosis was made to arrival at Stanfield Nursing Home, we help to follow and maintain it.
We always encourage our residents with dementia to live as independently as they are able to, including carrying out their own mouth care however the provision of support is always there if required. This support can take different forms, depending at what stage dementia is at.
Early stages may simply require reminders and supervision. We can advise on devices to assist. For example, we find that electric toothbrushes or toothbrushes with specially adapted handles can help. Equally, marking dentures with names can help to alleviate the misplacement or loss of these.
Different challenges arise as dementia progresses. Those living with dementia may stop understanding why they need to clean their teeth, may lose the ability and lose interest in doing it. In this situation, we would help by cleaning their teeth for them.
Other issues can arise as a result of the medication which is often prescribed by sufferers of dementia. Antidepressants, for example, have a common side effect of a dry-mouth. Since saliva protects teeth, by acting as a lubricant and cleanser, a reduction can lead to an increase of plaque, therefore increasing the risk of dental decay, gum disease and infection.
It’s important these issues are addressed swiftly since pain and infection can worsen the confusion associated with dementia - thereby directly causing a reduction in quality of life. It’s for reasons like this that at Stanfield Nursing Home we take oral care so seriously. The Alzheimer’s Society website discusses the complexities associated with dementia and oral care in more detail, should you wish to do further reading.
Of course, oral care hygiene challenges are not limited to people suffering from dementia. For example, syrup based medications, such as those you will often find prescribed for constipation, can increase the risk of tooth decay. A simple solution is to provide sugar free alternatives.
Other simple solutions to oral care we provide include:
- Denture fixatives
- Artificial saliva
- Encouraging frequent sips of water at mealtimes and throughout the day
At Stanfield Nursing Home, it’s our aim to create a supportive environment that enables residents to be as independent as they are able. The delivery of regular, appropriate and innovative training allows us to provide the kind of nursing care services that do exactly this.
If you would like to know more about the care we provide at Stanfield Nursing Home, whether for yourself or a loved one, please call us on 01905 420 459.
You might also like to read our previous blog post about Worcester care home staff matron, Pat and her big birthday celebrations!