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One hour of social activity drastically helps those with dementia

For people with dementia living in care homes, life can deteriorate quickly. Caregivers often do everything they can to improve the lives and health of the people in their care, relying on current knowledge of how to best handle this destructive condition.

Recent findings from a large-scale trial led by the University of Exeter, King’s College London, and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, now shows that providing person-centered activities and simply one hour a week of social interaction for dementia patients can improve their quality of life and reduce agitation.

The Improving Wellbeing and Health for People with Dementia (WHELD) trial was the largest ever non-pharmacological randomized control trial in people with dementia living in care homes. It assessed over 800 people with dementia in almost 70 care homes in the UK. At each home, two “care staff champions” were trained to take simple actions such as talking to residents about their interests and decisions involving their own care. When these measures were combined with one hour per week of social interaction, it significantly improved quality of life.

“Taking a person-centered approach is about really getting to know the resident as an individual – knowing their interests and talking with them while you provide all aspects of care. It can make a massive difference to the person themselves and their carers,” says Dr. Jane Fossey of the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Beyond the health improvements it provided, this approach also ended up decreasing costs compared to standard care. The next steps involve an effort to bring the program to 28,000 care homes in the UK – which could benefit the lives of the 300,000 people living with dementia in these homes.

By Connor Ertz, Staff Writer

Source: University of Exeter

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