Improving the Oral-Health of Older People Living in Residential Care

Timeframe: 2014 – 2015
Funder: Newcastle Dental Hospital (Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust), Newcastle University and Northumbria University

For the first time, the majority of very old people have some natural teeth. This is a success story but for oral-health care professionals creates new levels of complexity in determining and delivering appropriate care. This is difficult in residential care environments where the residents may have a range of conditions, including dementia for example. This research used service design approaches to map patterns of care and likely oral-care needs, and develop a range of prototypical interventions which might support mouthcare in residential care settings. The research was conducted in partnership with Dr Rebecca Wassall of Newcastle Dental Hospital. The proposed interventions ranged from placemats, where relatives could record changes they observed in eating behaviours, through to memory prompts for ensuite bathrooms where residents undertake daily personal care. Visual tools from Service Design were found to be useful in planning for the complexity of community-based services, where multiple agencies may be involved in delivering care to a single individual. Findings demonstrated that these visualisations of service effectively widened and held-open the scope of the case-study project and that key policy-stakeholders recognised that Design’s person-centred perspective, operated across the usual organisational boundaries.