BMC Oral Health, 2024

Oral symptoms in dying nursing home patients. Results from the prospective REDIC study

The mouth is a central organ for communication and fluid intake, also for dying nursing home patients. This study describes the prevalence and severity of oral symptoms from nursing home admission until the day of perceived dying and the day of death.

A prospective, longitudinal cohort study including 696 patients who were admitted to 47 Norwegian nursing homes in 35 municipalities. During the first year of their stay, 189 died (27%), of whom 82 participants were assessed on the day they were perceived as dying and 134 on the day of death. Mouth care, nutrition, and bedsores were assessed with the Residents’ Assessment Instrument for nursing homes (RAI-NH) and palliative care (RAI-PC). Pain intensity was assessed with the Mobilization-Observation-Behaviour-Intensity-Dementia-2 Pain Scale (MOBID-2).

The proportion of patients with ≥ 6 oral symptoms increased from 16% when perceived as dying to 20% on the day of death (P = 0.001). On the day of death, xerostomia (66%), dysphagia (59%), and mastication problems (50%) were the most frequently observed oral symptoms. Only 16% received mouth care every hour and 12% were in pain during this procedure. Compared to people without dementia, those with a diagnosis of dementia at admission (N = 112, 86%) had xerostomia and mastication problems more frequently (50% vs. 73%; 32% vs. 56% (P = 0.038), respectively) on the day of death.

The high extent of oral symptoms such as xerostomia, dysphagia, and mastication problems underline the need for systematic assessment and improved oral palliative care for dying nursing home patients with dementia.


Reidun K. N.M. Sandvik, Bettina S. Husebø, Geir Selbæk, Gunhild Strand, Monica Patrascu, Manal Mustafa & Sverre Bergh

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