Dysphagia Training and Management in Nursing and Residential Care Homes
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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BACKGROUND: Dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) can have life-threatening consequences for elderly people residing in nursing and residential care homes if not managed effectively (Pelletier, 2004). Care Assistants (CAs) occupy a pivotal position in the delivery of dysphagia care as they are the frontline staff in providing mealtime support (O‟Loughlin and Shanley, 1998). No systematic study in the United Kingdom (UK) has been carried out to investigate whether CAs working in nursing and residential care homes possess the appropriate knowledge and skills to provide safe and effective dysphagia care. AIM: To investigate CAs‟ knowledge, beliefs and practices in the management of dysphagia in nursing and residential care homes. METHOD: This was a descriptive quantitative study that used a structured questionnaire to gather information from participants regarding the reserach aim. The sample comprised of 61 CAs recruited from 8 nursing and residential care homes from one county in the UK. RESULTS: Half of the CAs (n=28) had not received dysphagia training. Only 9% of training was delivered by a speech and language therapist (SLT). The majority of Managers and CAs expressed a need for more training. CAs reported moderate to high confidence despite evident gaps in their knowledge of dysphagia (e.g. the signs and symptoms, and associated health risks) and its management (e.g. dietary modification and positioning). CONCLUSION: The results suggest that many CAs lack the knowledge to provide safe and effective dysphagia care. One explanation for the lack of training was limited access to SLTs. A strategic UK approach to CA dysphagia training to reduce associated morbidity and mortality is recommended.
B.Sc. (Hons) Speech and Language Therapy
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