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Just One Hour of Conversation Per Week Improves Lives of Dementia Patients

By | February 7th, 2018

Talking with dementia patients for just ten minutes per day could improve their quality of life significantly, a new study found.

One-on-one interaction, along with staff training on how to provide personalized care, helped improve patient scores on a quality of life assessment filled out by carers, along with reducing dementia patients’ agitation and angry outbursts.

The study was carried out at 69 care homes over nine months in England and involved over 800 patients. Staff members were trained to ask about their patients’ interests and abilities and for input on their own care plan, which led to an additional hour of interaction per week.

In some care homes, residents receive as little as two minutes of interaction per week, according to researchers. “It’s hardly surprising when that has a knock-on effect on quality of life and agitation,” said study author Clive Ballard, a professor at the University of Exeter School of Medicine. “While many care homes are excellent, standards still vary hugely.”

The researchers found that taking a personalized approach not only improved quality of life, it also reduced the cost of care by making dementia patients easier to manage.

“Taking a person-centered approach is about getting to know each resident as an individual—their interests and preferences—and reflecting these in all aspects of care,” said Jane Fossey, Associate Director of Psychological Services at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. “It can improve the lives of the person themselves and it can be rewarding for carers too. We’ve shown that this approach significantly reduces agitation and saves money. Rolling out the training nationwide could benefit many other people.”

Researchers hope to take this approach to the 28,000 care homes across the U.K. Over 300,000 people in care homes in the U.K. are living with dementia.

“This study shows that training to provide this type of individualized care, activities and social interactions can have a significant impact on 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,” said Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society.

This study was published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

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