Background: Many people living with dementia are able to look after themselves but as dementia progresses, their family and/or home care workers are likely to help with personal care. This might include reminding them to clean their teeth or dentures. If people living with dementia cannot care for their teeth or mouth, they may be in pain, have problems eating, and need treatments. For people living with dementia who get home care services in England, a care plan will outline the personal care they need by a manager or supervisor working for a home care company. This study is meeting an evidence gap about how homecare staff assess and implement mouth or dental care and any challenges they may encounter. This is important to investigate as there is a strong link between dementia and poor oral health, and dental needs should be identified promptly to prevent pain and unnecessary treatments.
Aim: The overall aim of the SORTED study was to explore ways of improving social care practice in integrating mouth and dental care into personal care for people living with dementia at home by examining how this is addressed in individual assessments and care plans.
Methods: We carried out 19 online individual semi-structured interviews with homecare staff (workers, co-ordinators and managers) to explore their views on care assessments, care plans and challenges relating to assessing and delivering mouth and dental care. The interviewers took place between January - June 2022 and were audio-recorded. Each interview lasted about 30 minutes. They were transcribed and analysed thematically following the Framework approach.
Findings: Homecare staff acknowledged the importance of the oral and mouth care as an integral part of providing personal care to people living with dementia. They discussed challenges they encountered and several strategies they may use to engage people living with dementia in looking after their teeth and mouth. They also highlighted several factors that may impact on daily oral care, such as the person's routine and mood, continuity of staff, time, knowledge and training.
Conclusions: Tailored information and training on oral care may help raise awareness of the importance of preventative oral care for people living with dementia at home among those devising care and support plans, the homecare workforce and others supporting people living with dementia.