Sam Shah discusses the HEE supported project exploring hydration, nutrition and mouthcare in hospital and community care settings. The project involves training staff and raising awareness to improve the quality of care, to help avoid admission and to support discharge. The insights from this project will be shared at the BGS Spring Meeting in Gateshead on the 28th April at 9:30-11:00.
We are all accustomed to brushing our own teeth and cleaning our mouths, it’s entrenched in the daily routines of most people. Most of us are able to eat and drink ourselves and we understand the link between what we eat and our how our bodies respond. A big challenge in the care of frail older people, and those in high needs settings, is ensuring their hydration, nutrition and mouthcare needs are supported.
It’s often difficult to avoid those foods which are known to contribute to tooth decay whilst also meeting the needs of frail patients. Ensuring sufficient hydration can also be challenging. If patients don’t receive adequate hydration they may suffer from dry mouth, the knock on effect of which includes reduced ability to absorb medicines and to eat properly, which itself may result in deterioration or the need for further medical intervention.
Our work has found that simple changes in the way that carers deliver personal care or basic training for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and the healthcare team can transform care. It’s surprising how many dentures get thrown away in hospital leaving patients unable to eat properly or communicate. It’s worrying how many patients are left unable to properly absorb medicines due to dry mouth which complicates their condition and increases hospital stays. Care planning has improved over the years but often these plans don’t include anything about the mouth – this can make it difficult for any visiting dentist and can make it difficult for carers trying to provide personal care.
At a time when the health service is struggling with increasing demand and increased length of hospital stay, healthcare professionals need to work collaboratively to help keep people well when outside of hospital and to optimise all aspects of their care when they’re in hospital.
We often hear about the near impossibility in getting access to dental care for these patients and our panel discussion will include senior leaders from across the NHS that may be able to answer some of your difficult questions. Come and join us at our session, but be warned we have lots of pictures…