Care home nurses in Derbyshire are to receive specialist training in helping older patients in care homes with feeding or swallowing difficulties.
Under the scheme, nurses will be trained by speech and language therapists to better identify and manage patients with dysphagia, who often develop chest problems when lungs and airways become infected through incompetent swallowing or feeding, resulting in emergency hospital admissions.
The Derbyshire Community Health initiative is one of 14 national schemes being funded through the Health Foundation’s Shine Award programme.
Mary Heritage, head of speech and language therapy services for Derbyshire Community Health Services, said: “This is a really welcome opportunity to give care home nurses the right training to spot this potentially life-threatening condition.
“Elderly patients are very vulnerable so we need to do everything we can to make sure we are meeting their nutritional needs and making sure they are as comfortable as possible. This cash boost will not only lead to better care, but it will also ensure a better quality of life at a critical time in many people’s lives.”
She said that once swallowing and feeding problems were identified, staff could accommodate the condition by thickening drinks, offering easy chew portions, or giving foods to patients in a better position.
Initially therapists aim to recruit 10 care homes in Derby City, South Derbyshire and Amber Valley to pilot the project.
Nurses from each care home will be invited to attend a two-day training course and be guided through a decision-making tool relating to dysphagia.
The £57,000 project will run until January 2012. In addition to training nurses, all care home staff will receive awareness training.
There were 119 hospital admissions because of “aspiration pneumonia” – where the lungs and airways become inflamed because of incompetent swallowing – in Derbyshire County during 2009-10, at a total cost of £482,326.
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