Understanding eating and drinking difficulties for people with dementia in care homes

Lead Investigator: Ms Lindsey Collins
Institution: University of Bradford
Grant type: Clinical Training Fellowship
Duration: 48 months
Amount: £151,555
Scientific Title: Understanding the experience of eating and drinking difficulties from the perspective of people living with dementia in residential care homes


Why did we fund this project?

Comments from members of our Research Network:

'This is a helpful and practical project whose impact would be most beneficial'

'The person centered research carried out by people who are in the foreground of caring will, I believe, be of great benefit to people with dementia'

'This aspect of dementia is often overlooked/ignored, but is very important and deserves further study'

What do we already know?

Eating and drinking is a very complex process, which involves sensory, movement and cognitive skills. It is thought that around 50% of people affected by dementiaexperience problems with eating and drinking, known as dysphagia. This could be due to problems with the way the brain processes the signals for eating and drinking. 

Dysphagia can have a significant impact on health but can also affect other aspects of life, including the ability to socialise. It can also lead to physical problems, such as choking or food going into the lungs. 

Previous research has estimated that a large proportion of people with dementia who live in a care homes will experience dysphagia. As well as leading to health problems such as malnutrition, this can have an effect on the wellbeing of the care home residents, who cannot participate in the social aspect that comes with eating and drinking. 

What does this project involve?

Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) are specially trained in helping people with dysphagia. This project aims to understand how dysphagia impacts upon people with dementia who are living in care homes and how SLTs can aid them overcome these difficulties. It will also explore the experiences of family carers and care home staff with regards to helping someone who is experiencing dysphagia. 

The project will involve interviewing the people affected about their experiences with dysphagia. For those in the later stages of dementia, who may not be able to participate in an interview, an observational tool called Dementia Care Mapping will be used.

The results of the interviews from each of the groups of people involved will be analysed and the key points identified. The results will then be disseminated to the people who would benefit from this information, including Speech and Language Therapists. 

How will this benefit people with dementia?

This project will help people living with dementia and dysphagia to share their living experiences. This will help to educate carers and SLTs to understand the need to offer support that reduces physical risks as much as possible. It also aims to maintain or increase wellbeing and help those affected by dementia and dysphagia to receive better care and have a better quality of life.