Measuring feeding difficulty in patients with dementia: developing a scale


  • Roger Watson BSc PhD RGN CBiol MIBiol

    1. Lecturer, Department of Nursing Sfudies, The University of Edinburgh, 40 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LL, Scotland
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Feeding difficulty in elderly people with dementia is well documented and the need for research in this area of nursing care has been raised by several authors. One hundred and twelve elderly people with dementia were entered into a study of feeding difficulty. Data were gathered by means of a questionnaire administered to the nurses caring for the patients. The aspects of feehg difficulty which were investigated were based on reports of relevant behaviour in the literature and included refusal to eat, turning the head away, refusing to open the mouth, spitting, allowing food to drop out of the mouth and not swallowing. It was possible to arrange these different aspects of feeding difficulty under three headings: (a) refusal to eat, (b) spitting, and (c) inability to swallow, and to analyse the pattern of accumulation of these feeding difficulties by means of Guttman scale analysis. According to this analysis, the feeding Uculties investigated form a cumulative and unidimensional pattern. The implications of this pattern and the possibilities for further research are discussed.