Nursing home (NH) residents with dementia are often dependent on others for mouth care, yet will react with care-resistant behavior (CRB) when receiving assistance. The oral health of these elders deteriorates in the absence of daily oral hygiene, predisposing them to harmful systemic problems such as pneumonia, hyperglycemia, cardiac disease, and cerebral vascular accidents. The purpose of this study is to determine whether CRBs can be reduced, and oral health improved, through the application of an intervention based on the neurobiological principles of threat perception and fear response. When faced with a threat, all organisms react with """"""""flight-fight"""""""" responses. These responses are both autonomic (e.g. elevated heart rate, sweating) and behavioral (e.g. moving away, attacking). Persons with dementia have heightened threat perception as a result of neurobiological changes that affect the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and amygdale.16 These individuals may interpret mouth care as a threatening action by threatening people. The intervention, called Managing Oral Hygiene Using Threat Reduction (MOUTh), combines best mouth care practices with a constellation of behavioral techniques that reduce threat perception and thereby prevent or de-escalate CRB. The primary specific aims of the study are to: 1)Evaluate the efficacy of the MOUTh intervention for reducing CRBs in persons with dementia;2)Validate the overall efficacy of the MOUTh intervention using nurse-sensitive oral health outcomes--swollen and bleeding gums, cleanliness of the oral cavity, saliva, and integrity of the lips and oral mucosa;and 3)Calculate the cost of the MOUTh intervention. Using a randomized repeated measures design, 80 elders with dementia from 5 different NHs will be randomized at the individual level to the experimental group, which will receive the intervention, or to the control group, which will receive standard mouth care from research team members who receive training in the proper methods for providing mouth care but no training in resistance recognition or prevention/mediation. Oral health assessments and CRB measurements will be obtained during a 7-day observation period and a 21-day intervention period. Individual growth models using multilevel analysis will be used to estimate the efficacy of the intervention for reducing CRBs in persons with dementia, and to estimate the overall efficacy of the intervention using oral health outcomes. Activity-based costing methods will be used to determine the cost of the MOUTh intervention. At the end of this study, the research team anticipates having a proven intervention that prevents and reduces CRB within the context of mouth care. Long-term objectives include testing the effect of the intervention on systemic illnesses among persons with dementia;examining the transferability of this intervention to other activities of daily living;and disseminating threat reduction interventions to NH staff, which may radically change the way care is provided to persons with dementia.

Public Health Relevance

Nursing home residents with dementia may react with fear during mouth care, making it difficult for caregivers to brush teeth or remove dentures. Without daily mouth care, the mouth becomes diseased and places the elder at risk for other illnesses such as pneumonia. This study will examine if a method for providing mouth care in a non-threatening way improves the oral health of nursing home residents with dementia.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-HDM-R (02))
Program Officer
Tully, Lois
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Pennsylvania State University
Other Health Professions
Schools of Nursing
University Park
United States
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Jablonski, Rita A; Kolanowski, Ann M; Azuero, Andres et al. (2018) Randomised clinical trial: Efficacy of strategies to provide oral hygiene activities to nursing home residents with dementia who resist mouth care. Gerodontology 35:365-375
Jablonski-Jaudon, Rita A; Winstead, Vicki; Jones-Townsend, Corteza et al. (2016) Revising the Resistiveness to Care Scale. J Nurs Meas 24:72-82
Jablonski-Jaudon, Rita A; Kolanowski, Ann M; Winstead, Vicki et al. (2016) Maturation of the MOUTh Intervention: From Reducing Threat to Relationship-Centered Care. J Gerontol Nurs 42:15-23; quiz 24-5
Jones, Corteza; Jablonski, Rita A (2014) ""I don't want to be a guinea pig"": recruiting older African Americans. J Gerontol Nurs 40:3-4
Jablonski, Rita A; Kolanowski, Ann M; Litaker, Mark (2011) Profile of nursing home residents with dementia who require assistance with mouth care. Geriatr Nurs 32:439-46
Jablonski, Rita A; Kolanowski, Ann; Therrien, Barbara et al. (2011) Reducing care-resistant behaviors during oral hygiene in persons with dementia. BMC Oral Health 11:30
Jablonski, Rita A; Therrien, Barbara; Kolanowski, Ann (2011) No more fighting and biting during mouth care: applying the theoretical constructs of threat perception to clinical practice. Res Theory Nurs Pract 25:163-75