A study on managing incontinence among people with dementia who live at home has won its category at the Royal College of General Practitioners Research Paper of the Year Award ceremony.

The paper was co-authored by Professor Vari Drennan and Laura Cole of the Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, run jointly by Kingston University and St George’s, University of London.

Called ‘A taboo within a stigma? A qualitative study of managing incontinence with people with dementia living at home’, the study was named the Dementias and Neurodegenerative Diseases category winner at the award ceremony in London. The Faculty researchers were honoured along with co-author Professor Steve Iliffe of University College London, and their paper was shortlisted for the main Research Paper of the Year prize.

Toileting and incontinence issues in people with dementia who live at home is a factor often associated with the decision to move patients to a care home, as it adds to the burden of family members and carers. Many of those caring for a dementia patient at home report greater difficulties in coping with incontinence than they do with dementia-related behavioural symptoms.

The research paper investigated carers’ perceptions of the range of incontinence problems they encountered when helping their relative and the ways in which they managed them.

Published in BioMed Central, the study found that a different approach by primary healthcare providers could reduce problems for patients and their carers.

It found that most carers reported protecting the person’s dignity by not seeking the help of health professionals often until the point of a crisis, and sometimes the strategies they used to cope could be harmful to the person with dementia, for example, limiting their drinks.

The study reported that GPs and primary care nurses could be more proactive in making enquiries, repeated over time, about toileting and incontinence problems, and in giving advice and information.

Professor Drennan said: “The types of problems change as the dementia progresses, but the impact on everyone and the issues of protecting the person’s dignity in the face of embarrassing and stigmatising problems remain”.

Award panel chair Professor Frank Sullivan said: “This is an important paper because it highlights issues surrounding care which need to be addressed, and provides a very human view of the experiences of both patients and their carers. The researchers have found that there’s a positive role for primary care providers to play that could really ease a burden for both.”

The paper can be read here.