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Simple Prosocial Measures Can Improve Lives of Dementia Patients

Simple Prosocial Measures Can Improve Lives of Dementia Patients

Person-centered activities, combined with just one hour a week of social interaction, can improve quality of life and reduce agitation for people with dementia living in nursing homes — while saving money, according to a new study.

The results of the large-scale trial led by the University of Exeter, King’s College London, and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2017.

The trial involved more than 800 people with dementia in 69 care homes in South London, North London, and Buckinghamshire. Two “care staff champions” at each home were trained over four daylong sessions to take simple measures, such as talking to residents about their interests and decisions around their own care.

When combined with just one hour a week of social interaction, it improved quality of life and reduced agitation, the researchers discovered.

The approach also saved money compared to standard care, according to the researchers, who say the next challenge is to introduce the program to the 28,000 care homes in the U.K. to benefit the lives of the 300,000 people with dementia living in these facilities.

“People with dementia who are living in care homes are among the most vulnerable in our society,” said Professor Clive Ballard of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the research. “Incredibly, of 170 carer training manuals available on the market, only four are based on evidence that they really work. Our outcomes show that good staff training and just one hour a week of social interaction significantly improves quality of life for a group of people who can often be forgotten by society.”

“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,” said Dr. Jane Fossey from the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. “It can make a massive difference to the person themselves and their carers. We’ve shown that this approach significantly improves lives, reduces agitation and actually saves money too. This training must now be rolled out nationwide so other people can benefit.”

According to Doug Brown, director of research for the Alzheimer’s Society, 70 percent of people living in care homes have dementia, “so it is vital that staff have the right training to provide good quality dementia care.”

“We know that a person-centered approach that takes each individual’s unique qualities, abilities, interests, preferences, and needs into account can improve care,” he said.

“This study shows that training to provide this type of individualized care, along with activities and social interactions, has a significant impact on the well-being of people living with dementia in care homes. It also shows that effective care can reduce costs, which the stretched social care system desperately needs.”

The results are the findings of the Improving Wellbeing and Health for People with Dementia (WHELD) trial, the largest non-pharmacological randomized control trial in people with dementia living in care homes to date, according to the researchers.

Source: University of Exeter

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