Managing Faecal INcontinence in people with advanced dementia resident in Care Homes (FINCH) study: a realist synthesis of the evidence

Goodman C1, Norton C2, Buswell M1, Russell B1, Harari D3,4, Harwood R5, Roe B6, Rycroft-Malone J7, Drennan VM8, Fader M9, Maden M10, Cummings K11, Bunn F1. Health Technol Assess. 2017 Aug;21(42):1-220. doi: 10.3310/hta21420.
Author information

1 Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK. 2 Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, King's College London, London, UK. 3 Department of Ageing and Health, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK. 4 Division of Health and Social Care, King's College London, London, UK. 5 Health Care of Older People, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK. 6 Faculty of Health and Social Care, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK. 7 School of Healthcare Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, UK. 8 Centre for Health and Social Care Research, Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, Kingston and St George's, London, UK. 9 Health Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK. 10 School of Health Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK. 11 Order of St John Care Trust, Witney, UK.


BACKGROUND: Eighty per cent of care home residents in the UK are living with dementia. The prevalence of faecal incontinence (FI) in care homes is estimated to range from 30% to 50%. There is limited evidence of what is effective in the reduction and management of FI in care homes.

OBJECTIVE: To provide a theory-driven explanation of the effectiveness of programmes that aim to improve FI in people with advanced dementia in care homes.

DESIGN: A realist synthesis. This was an iterative approach that involved scoping of the literature and consultation with five stakeholder groups, a systematic search and analysis of published and unpublished evidence, and a validation of programme theories with relevant stakeholders.

DATA SOURCES: The databases searched included PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, The Cochrane Library, Scopus, SocAbs, Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts, BiblioMap, Sirius, OpenGrey, Social Care Online and the National Research Register.

RESULTS: The scoping identified six programme theories with related context-mechanism-outcome configurations for testing. These addressed (1) clinician-led support, assessment and review, (2) the contribution of teaching and support for care home staff on how to reduce and manage FI, (3) the causes and prevention of constipation, (4) how the cognitive and physical capacity of the resident affect outcomes, (5) how the potential for recovery, reduction and management of FI is understood by those involved and (6) how the care of people living with dementia and FI is integral to the work patterns of the care home and its staff. Data extraction was completed on 62 core papers with iterative searches of linked literature. Dementia was a known risk factor for FI, but its affect on the uptake of different interventions and the dementia-specific continence and toileting skills staff required was not addressed. Most care home residents with FI will be doubly incontinent and, therefore, there is limited value in focusing solely on FI or on single causes of FI such as constipation. Clinical assessment, knowledge of the causes of FI and strategies that recognise the individuals' preferences are necessary contextual factors. Valuing the intimate and personal care work that care home staff provide to people living with dementia and addressing the dementia-related challenges when providing continence care within the daily work routines are key to helping to reduce and manage FI in this population.

LIMITATIONS: The synthesis was constrained by limited evidence specific to FI and people with dementia in care homes and by the lack of dementia-specific evidence on continence aids.

CONCLUSIONS: This realist synthesis provides a theory-driven understanding of the conditions under which improvement in care for care home residents living with dementia and FI is likely to be successful.

FUTURE WORK: Future multicomponent interventions need to take account of how the presence of dementia affects the behaviours and choices of those delivering and receiving continence care within a care home environment.

STUDY REGISTRATION: This study is registered as PROSPERO CRD42014009902.

FUNDING: The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.

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