Sensory Health for Residents with Dementia in Care Homes in England: A Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practice Survey

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2021 Jul;22(7):1518-1524.e12. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2021.03.020. Epub 2021 Apr 28.


Background: Most residents with dementia (RwD) in long-term care (LTC) facilities experience hearing and vision problems, yet these sensory deficits, which are associated with poor outcomes, are frequently under-recognized or incompletely managed.

Objective: We investigated the knowledge, attitudes, and practice (KAP) of LTC facility staff in England regarding sensory-cognitive health of RwD.

Design: A cross-sectional survey using self-administered online or mail-in questionnaires.

Setting and participants: The study included 117 LTC facilities throughout England, involving 887 staff of different grades (managers, n=79; nurses/allied health professionals, n=160; care workers, n=648).

Methods: Using a sampling frame of all LTC facilities nationwide, we included a stratified random selection of facilities, surveying staff regarding KAP of sensory-cognitive health. Analysis was descriptive, followed by a regression model for predictors of overall KAP capacity of staff, based on a Rasch analysis of survey items.

Results: Staff of all grades reported high knowledge and awareness of sensory-health concerns amongst RwD, but training opportunities were infrequent and most front-line staff felt they lacked the skills necessary to support the use of hearing and vision aids. The most reported reason for poor use of hearing aids/glasses related to lack of maintenance and care procedures (ie, broken and lost devices), and poor adherence support (ie, not tolerating the devices). Staff willingness to receive training was high. Most managers reported that training in communication skills and "sensory-friendly" environments was not provided. Finally, higher overall KAP capacity of staff was predicted by smaller facility size and public, rather than private, facility type.

Conclusions and implications: Training and practice of sensory health care in RwD in LTC in England is lacking. To improve sensory-cognitive care for LTC RwD, there is a clear need for (1) practice recommendations and (2) multifaceted interventions that include staff training, tailored sensory support, and environmental modification.

Keywords: KAP survey; Sensory-cognitive health; care homes; dementia; long-term care facilities; staff training.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dementia* / therapy
  • England
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires