The goal of the work I do is to improve the quality of care, and quality of life, for older adults. As a faculty member in the Duke University School of Nursing, I am able to do this work in several ways. I am a:
I love to eat, and I love caring for older adults with dementia. These two passions have led me to devote my research career to improving mealtimes for older adults with dementia, and their caregivers. Most of my work so far has focused on nursing home care, but I believe there are many strategies that family caregivers would also benefit from learning about.
There are three handfeeding techniques that we can use to help an individual with dementia with their meals: Direct Hand, Over Hand, and Under Hand. The link to the demonstration video will show you the differences. In February 2017, the first experimental study to compare the three handfeeding techniques was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Feeding behaviors are things like when a person with dementia won’t open their mouth to eat, or they turn their head away. I want to change the way these behaviors are interpreted. They may not mean that the resident doesn’t want to eat – maybe they just want something to drink or they want a different food – and if we offer these things, the person may eat more. Most of the time, these types of behaviors are interpreted as the person with dementia “refusing” to eat, and I think we should interpret these behaviors as a form of communication.
The long-term goal of my research is to develop and test a dementia feeding skills training program that can be taught to all nursing home staff, and all caregivers of people with dementia. My research has been supported since 2009, through the generous support of the John A. Hartford Foundation’s National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars, and the National Institute of Health/ National Institute for Nursing Research.