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Daily chats 'help people with dementia'

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
elderly woman

7th February 2018 – Spending a few minutes each day chatting to people with dementia can improve their quality of life, says a study.

Previous research suggests many care home residents get as little as 2 minutes social interaction a day.

An hour spent chatting each week

The new study, in the journal PLOS Medicine, tested the impact on dementia patients of extending this to 60 minutes of conversation each week – the equivalent of around 8-and-a-half minutes a day.

The research team, led by the University of Exeter, King's College London, and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, involved 847 people with dementia in 69 nursing homes in south London, north London, and Buckinghamshire.

Therapists and staff undertook 4 days of training in 'person centred care'. This involved talking to residents about their interests and preferences and reflecting these in aspects of their care.

Reducing agitation and aggression

During the 9-month trial, the researchers found that when combined with just an hour a week of social interaction, the programme, known as Improving Wellbeing and Health for People with Dementia (WHELD), improved quality of life and reduced agitation and aggression.

It also concluded that the programme can save treatment costs over standard care.

The researchers say the next challenge is to roll out the programme to the 28,000 care homes in the UK to help the lives of the 300,000 people with dementia living in these facilities.

Benefits of individualised care

Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, comments in a statement: "People with dementia can experience severe agitation that can be distressing for those living with the condition as well as carers and loved ones. There is a lack of safe and effective treatments for the behavioural symptoms of dementia and a desperate need for new ways to help those affected.

"Just like any one of us, people with dementia benefit from social engagement and this study highlights how approaches to dementia care that include a social element can have a positive effect on quality of life and help to limit symptoms like agitation."

In a statement, Dr Doug Brown, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, says: "70% of people living in care homes have dementia, so it is vital that staff have the right training to provide good quality dementia care.

"A person-centred approach takes into account each individual's unique qualities, abilities, interests, preferences and needs. This study shows that training to provide this type of individualised care, activities and social interactions can have a significant impact of the well-being of people living with dementia in care homes.

"It also shows that this kind of effective care can reduce costs, which the stretched social care system desperately needs."

Reviewed on February 07, 2018

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