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Study tackling taboos of incontinence and dementia wins category prize at RCGP research paper awards

Photograph of Vari Drennan, Professor of Health Policy and Service Delivery, Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education

A study on managing incontinence among people with dementia who live at home has won a Royal College of General Practitioners Research Paper (RCGP) of the Year Award for the category dementias and neurodegenerative diseases.

The paper was co-authored by Professor Vari Drennan (photographed left) and Laura Cole of the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education.

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 with this prestigious award, along with co-author Professor Steve Iliffe of University College London.

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.

(L-R) Mark Bechter, Medical Director, Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited (sponsor); Professor Helen Lester, Chair of RCGP CIRC; Steve Illife, Vari Drennan (category winners), Dr Iona Heath, President of the RCGP; and Dr Frank Sullivan, Chair of the Research Paper of the Year Award judging panel. [Photo credit: Justin Grainge Photography]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 (pictured above with members of the award panel and winners) 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 RCGP and Novartis Research Paper of the Year award

This annual prize is supported by an unconditional grant from Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK, and aims to:

  • Raise the profile of research in general practice and primary care.
  • Demonstrate that high quality research is being undertaken in general practice and primary care.
  • Give recognition to a group of researchers or an individual researcher, who have/has undertaken and published an exceptional piece of research relating to general practice or primary care.
  • Recognise the increasing importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to primary care.

The Royal College of General Practitioners

The RCGP is a network of more than 44,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. They work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.