Providing better care for care home residents with both dementia and cancer

Research project: Understanding the care and support needs of residential care home residents with dementia and comorbid cancer - to inform provision of high quality person-centred care for this group

Lead Investigator: Dr Laura Ashley
Institution: Leeds Beckett University 
Grant type: PhD studentship 
Duration: 36 months
Amount: £74,556

Why did we fund this project?

Comments from members of our Research Network:

'This has been a much neglected area and I'm pleased that it is at last being addressed.'

'Valuable research especially around pain management in people with dementia and cancer.'

'There is always room to improve and assess pain in patients with dementia. There is a clear plan to carry this out. It could be beneficial to patients with all conditions.'

What do we already know?

Many people living with dementia will also have other long-term health conditions that need to be managed. One such condition is cancer, and it is estimated that around 29% of people with dementia will also develop cancer. 

Research has also shown that people with dementia receive a cancer diagnosis later than people who do not have dementia. People with both conditions will have more complex treatment needs and there is a lower survival rate among people with cancer and dementia compared to cancer alone.

Around 70% of residents in care homes have dementia and research indicates that many of these residents may also have cancer. Care homes can struggle to provide appropriate care for people living with dementia or cancer alone, therefore meeting the needs of people with both conditions can be very difficult. It is likely that treatment for pain associated with cancer is missed as people with dementia can struggle to communicate that they are in pain. 

What does this project involve?

Dr Ashley and her colleagues will understand what the experiences and support needs are for people living with both dementia and cancer in care homes. They will also find out how well these needs are being met. They will then identify how best practice care can be provided, including understanding what the barriers are to providing good care to people in this situation.

The PhD student on this project will interview care home residents with both dementia and cancer, and also with people with experience of caring for someone with both conditions. They will also interview care home staff.  Another part of the project will involve observing first-hand how people with cancer and dementia are cared for in care homes.

The key aim of the study is to identify priority areas for future studies that will test ways to improve care for care home residents living with both cancer and dementia. 

How will this benefit people with dementia?

People living with both dementia and cancer can have complex care needs that are not being met, particularly when it comes to managing their pain. This project will help to understand more about the needs of people living with both conditions in care homes. The project will also identify strategies that can help care homes to provide better care for people in this situation. 

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