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Caring for the elderly in our community

16 July 2021

July is Good Care Month which aims to celebrate and raise awareness of the great contribution of those working to support people in need of adult social care. So, what better time to highlight the important work our Oral Health Educator Kim Durk does in the local Torrington community?

Kim joined our practice in 2004 as a trainee dental nurse, and having qualified in 2006, was soon promoted to Head Nurse. Today, she not only works with TDP patients on a one-to-one basis, advising them on their oral health – she also (COVID allowing) visits local schools, community groups and, critically, care homes to help spread the message about the importance of good oral hygiene.

“Oral health problems are common among the elderly in care but can often be overlooked due to more obvious impairments such as poor eyesight, hearing and physical mobility” says Kim. “And yet poor oral health can severely impact on an elderly person’s quality of life making it hard to eat, swallow, speak and get adequate nutrition. Tooth loss, gum disease, tooth decay and dry mouth are most likely to occur; but 78% of mouth cancer cases also occur in the over 55 age group so it is imperative that care home residents look after their mouths and that carers are able to provide the necessary support and encouragement. .”

Prior to COVID, Kim visited local care homes on a regular basis, and looks forward to doing so again just as soon as she is permitted.  She advises and trains staff on how to support patients with their oral health care, particularly those who are living with dementia.

“All residents should have an oral health assessment when they move into a care home with the details recorded in their care plan. This involves discussions with family or friends involved in ongoing care. This will help keep on top of any changes in habits” says Kim. “I provide training sessions for care home staff which typically last an hour and cover all aspects of oral health for the elderly, including the correct use of different types of toothbrushes and how to engage residents with regular brushing.  We also cover interdental cleaning, caring for dentures, and how to spot gum disease and the signs and symptoms of mouth cancer.”

“I work hard to keep on top of the latest advice and advances in oral health care for the elderly, and to pass it on to care homes” adds Kim. “I also provide care plan templates for residents if the home doesn’t have them in place already. It’s great to see how much benefit the residents can get from simple improvements to their regular daily oral health regime. It really can bring a smile to their faces.”


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