Giving permission to care for people with dementia in residential homes: learning from a realist synthesis of hearing-related communication.
Crosbie B., Ferguson M., Wong G., Walker D-M., Vanhegan S., Dening T.
BACKGROUND: Managing hearing communication for residents living with hearing loss and dementia in long-term care settings is challenging. This paper explores how care can be effective in optimising hearing communication for residents living with dementia. We argue that the underlying notion of permission or authorisation allows care staff to do what they know will be effective in providing person-centred care that enhances hearing communication. The paper also indicates that this notion of permission can usefully be applied to other areas of care home practice. METHODS: To address hearing-related communication in care homes, we conducted a realist synthesis (RS). As a theory-driven approach to reviewing literature, it also uses expert opinion to understand complex health situations. Using RS, we developed a theory surrounding the management of hearing-related communication in care homes. Applying formal processes to the literature search and data extraction, the analysis uncovered relevant mechanisms and contexts to help confirm, refute or refine our understanding of how hearing communication could be improved. RESULTS: Forty-three papers were selected for the realist synthesis. The documents were analysed to construct five context-mechanism-outcome configurations (CMOCs). The CMOCs represent possible care interventions to optimise hearing-related communication in care homes for person living with dementia and hearing loss (PLWDHL). They include leadership promoting positive regard and empathy through person-centred care, communication training for staff, 'knowing the person' and relationship building for responsive awareness of residents' hearing needs, maintaining and monitoring hearing communication through care planning, and managing noise in the care home environment. CONCLUSIONS: Leadership that provides appropriate training and resources is likely to enhance knowledge and skills, leading to staff feeling able and equipped to respond to the hearing-related communication needs of PLWDHL. Collaboration with local hearing services is likely to raise awareness of hearing loss among care home staff. Importantly, care staff require a sense of permission from leadership, to work with knowledge and autonomy in the interest of residents living with dementia and hearing loss.