A pilot-feasibility study of measuring emotional expression during oral care

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This study explored the feasibility of measuring emotional responses to oral care among individuals with dementia living in residential long-term care (LTC). Eleven residents with dementia were recruited from a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs LTC unit and were observed eight times before, during, and after oral care episodes. Study participants showed a trend toward more positive emotional expressions during and after oral care (mean ± SD: 6.49 ± 1.57 and 6.27 ± 1.20 respectively) than before oral care (6.15 ± 0.86) at the margin of statistical significance (p = .08). Negative emotional expression increased among participants during oral care, from 0.22 ± .35 expressions per minute to 0.60 ± .65 expressions per minute, but returned to baseline after oral care (p < .01). Future studies with more representative samples are needed to more fully examine emotional responses to different types of care, adjusting for potential confounders, and to determine whether residents' emotional responses influence staff members' provision of care.

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