Understanding approaches to continence care for people living with dementia in acute hospital settings: an ethnographic study

Featherstone, Katie, Northcott, Andy ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3030-9861, Boddington, Paula, Edwards, Deborah, Vougioukalou, Sofia, Bale, Sue, Harrison Dening, Karen, Logan, Karen, Tope, Rosie, Kelly, Daniel, Jones, Aled, Askey, Jackie and Harden, Jane (2022) Understanding approaches to continence care for people living with dementia in acute hospital settings: an ethnographic study. Health and Social Care Delivery Research, 10 (14). ISSN 2755-0060

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Background: The acute hospital setting has become a key site of care for people living with dementia. People living with dementia are one of the largest populations in our hospitals, with the Department of Health and Social Care recognising that 25–50% of all acute hospital admissions are people who are also living with dementia. However, people living with dementia are a highly vulnerable group in the hospital setting and following an acute admission their functional abilities can deteriorate quickly and significantly. Detailed research is required to explore what constitutes ‘good care’.
Objectives: This study’s focus was a common but poorly understood aspect of everyday care for people living with dementia during an acute admission, that is continence care. We asked the following questions: what caring practices are observable when interacting with this patient group? How do ward teams respond to and manage continence needs? What informs these approaches? What are staff doing and why?
Design: This ethnography was informed by the symbolic interactionist research tradition, focusing on understanding how action and meaning are constructed within a setting. In-depth evidence-based analysis of everyday care enabled us to examine how ward staff responded to the continence care needs of people living with dementia and to follow the consequences of their actions. We carried out a mixed-methods systematic narrative review to refine our approach to fieldwork and analysis.
Setting: This ethnography was carried out for 180 days, across 12 months, in six wards in three hospitals across England and Wales that were purposefully selected to represent a range of hospital types, geographies and socioeconomic catchments.
Participants: In addition to general observations, 108 individuals participated directly in this study, contributing to 562 ethnographic interviews. Ten detailed case studies were also undertaken with people living with dementia.
Results: This study identified ‘pad cultures’ as an embedded practice on these acute wards. The routine use of continence pads among people living with dementia (regardless of continence and independence) was widespread. The use of continence pads was viewed as a precautionary strategy, the rationale being to provide safeguards, ensure containment and prevent ‘accidents’ or incontinence episodes, with an expectation that patients living with dementia not only will wear pads, but will use them.
Conclusions: These ‘pad cultures’ enabled the number of unscheduled interruptions to the institutionally mandated timetabled work of these wards to be reduced, but had significant impacts on people living Q2 with dementia and, in turn, wider impacts on the individuals and their identities. Ward staff described
feeling abandoned with the responsibility of caring for large numbers of people living with dementia, believing that it was impossible to work in other ways to support their patient’s continence.
Limitations: Limitations identified included the potential for the Hawthorne effect to influence data collection.
Future work: In collaboration with a specialist dementia care and continence teams, the findings are informing the development of education and training at an interactional and organisational level.
Study registration: This study is registered as PROSPERO CRD42018119495.

Item Type: Article
Identifier: 10.3310/quvv2680
Additional Information: This report should be referenced as follows: Featherstone K, Northcott A, Boddington P, Edwards D, Vougioukalou S, Bale S, et al. Understanding approaches to continence care for people living with dementia in acute hospital settings: an ethnographic study. Health Soc Care Deliv Res 2022;10(14). https://doi.org/10.3310/QUVV2680
Subjects: Medicine and health > Clinical medicine > Dementia
Medicine and health > Person centered care
Medicine and health > Nursing > Nursing practice
Medicine and health
Social sciences
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Andy Northcott
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2022 11:40
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2024 16:08
URI: https://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/eprint/8584


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