Developing a night-time care programme for people with dementia with sleep disturbance in care homes

Read about a research project we funded about sleep disturbance in people with dementia living in care homes: Development of a night-time care programme.

Lead Investigator: Dr Anne Corbett

  • Institution: King’s College London
  • Grant type: PhD studentship
  • Amount: £84,575
  • Start date: September 2014
  • End date: December 2017
  • Scientific Title: Sleep disturbance in people with dementia living in care homes: Development of a night-time care programme

The background

One third of the 800,000 people with dementia in the UK currently live in care homes. These individuals are often in the later stages of the condition and experience many symptoms that can be distressing for them and their caregivers, and have a serious impact on the care they receive. 

One such symptom is sleep disturbance, in which the person is unable to sleep at night. Over 40 per cent of people with dementia in the community experience sleep disturbance, and it is common on dementia wards in hospitals and care homes.

Sleep disturbance in dementia is clearly a very important issue in the care of people living in care homes, yet no studies have recorded the frequency or overall impact of this symptom.

As a result it is not possible to provide guidance to care homes on the best way to care for people with disturbed sleep.

What did the researchers do?

This PhD studentship aimed to understand the prevalence of sleep disturbance in people with dementia living in care homes, and to develop and evaluate a night-time care programme. This involved searching through published literature, holding focus groups and carrying our online surveys to understand more about methods to improve sleep disturbances in people with dementia.

The team also aimed to develop a programme to manage these problems within care homes and carry out a six-week trial to evaluate the effectiveness of this new programme.

What were the key results?

Dr Corbett and her team found there was often a lack of training for care at night and sleep problems in care homes. This often led to strained relationships between night staff and other people within the care home.

A training and support package was developed for care home staff focused on person centred care to support those experiencing sleep problems. 

The programme was tested in five care homes and was well received by staff who reported changes to care based on individual night time care plans for residents. Initial results also showed an improvement in behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia.  

How will this benefit people with dementia?

This research has the potential to significantly improve care in an area that currently receives little attention in research or care practice.

The studentship has provided valuable information about sleep disturbance in care homes, enabling better guidance for care staff and improved understanding of the issue. 

Next steps

Dr Corbett plans to continue in this area of research and will apply for additional funding to support her work. She plans to build on the learning of this research to understand more about the effectiveness of this programme in a larger study and to develop an online version.

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