The two-year grant is part of a statewide effort to integrate oral health into standard care for seniors and people with disabilities. Di Findley, director of the nonprofit Iowa CareGivers, says the Lifelong Smiles Coalition developed a training program for health care aides called, “Mouth Care Matters,” and 100 direct care workers have been trained so far.
Findley says, “One of the direct care workers mentioned at our statewide conference when they began to understand that connection between the mouth and the rest of the body, she said, “I’m going to start placing a much higher priority on oral health and checking that person’s mouth than I am putting lipstick on.'” Findley says standards for oral health care should be added to the intake process for nursing home patients and especially for those receiving home health care services. For example, aides or nurses could ask a few simple questions, like, “Can you eat?” or “Do you have sores or pain in your mouth?”
She says, “I think promoting standards that can be recognized at the state level and integrated into the bigger system, that’s the only way it’s going to change significantly.” The grant comes from the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation.
Delta Dental of Iowa is a nonprofit insurance company and its foundation’s purpose is to help improve oral health care in the state. Learn more at: www.lifelongsmilescoalition.com.
(By Michelle O’Neill, WVIK, Rock Island)