One social hour a week in dementia care improves lives and saves money

July 16, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Person-centred 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 care homes, while saving money.

These are the findings from a large-scale trial led by the University of Exeter, King's College London and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. These results were presented today (July 16) at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2017 (AAIC). The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The trial involved more than 800 people with across 69 care homes in South London, North London and Buckinghamshire. Two 'care staff champions' at each home were trained over four day-long sessions, to take simple measures that such as involve 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.

Importantly, the approach also saved money compared to standard care. Researchers say the next key challenge is to roll the programme to the 28,000 care homes in the UK to benefit the lives of the 300,000 people with dementia living in these facilities.

Professor Clive Ballard, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the research, said: "People with dementia who are living in care homes are among the most vulnerable in our society. 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."

Dr Jane Fossey from the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Taking a person-centred 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. 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."

Doug Brown, Director of Research for Alzheimer's Society, said:

"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.

"We know that a person-centred approach that takes each individual's unique qualities, abilities, interests, preferences and needs into account can improve care. This study shows that training to provide this type of individualised 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.

"Alzheimer's Society is committed to improving dementia care through research. We want to see interventions like this put into practice, and will continue to fund further research to improve the quality of life for people with dementia in their own homes, care homes and hospitals. But investment in research alone cannot rescue the broken system. The government must use the consultation on social care reform to deliver a long-term solution that addresses the desperate funding crisis in our current system and shares the cost of care across society."

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

Explore further: What to look for when choosing a good care home

Related Stories

What to look for when choosing a good care home

July 14, 2017
Although four out of five adult care homes in England evaluated in a recent report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) were found to provide good care, it is the shocking reports of resident abuse, medication errors, under ...

Research shortfall on common form of dementia highlighted

July 11, 2017
New research published in The Lancet has highlighted the scarcity of evidence on the prognosis of dementia with Lewy bodies, the second most common cause of degenerative dementia, which affects 100,000 people in the U.K.

A new way to think about dementia and sex

July 5, 2017
Persons living with dementia don't have sex. Or they have weird sex. Or they have dangerous sex, in need of containment.

Living with dementia: Life story work proves successful

September 2, 2016
A pioneering study led by researchers at the University of York's Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU) shows that life story work has the potential to help people with dementia.

Can robots help care for people with dementia?

June 26, 2017
As our populations continue to age the issue of how we deliver care to the elderly continues to be an incredibly important issue. But with the number of older people set to reach 1 billion in the next 10 years and the demand ...

Widespread antipsychotic use in nursing homes unnecessary, trial shows

July 26, 2016
Despite minimal evidence supporting their effectiveness to manage symptoms of dementia, the use of antipsychotic drugs in Australian nursing homes is widespread. Studies showing the drugs increase the risk of stroke, cognitive ...

Recommended for you

Multi-gene test predicts Alzheimer's better than APOE E4 alone

September 22, 2017
A new test that combines the effects of more than two dozen genetic variants, most associated by themselves with only a small risk of Alzheimer's disease, does a better job of predicting which cognitively normal older adults ...

Personality changes don't precede clinical onset of Alzheimer's, study shows

September 21, 2017
For years, scientists and physicians have been debating whether personality and behavior changes might appear prior to the onset of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

Newly ID'd role of major Alzheimer's gene suggests possible therapeutic target

September 20, 2017
Nearly a quarter century ago, a genetic variant known as ApoE4 was identified as a major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease—one that increases a person's chances of developing the neurodegenerative disease by up to 12 ...

Is the Alzheimer's gene the ring leader or the sidekick?

September 15, 2017
The notorious genetic marker of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, ApoE4, may not be a lone wolf.

Potential noninvasive test for Alzheimer's disease

September 6, 2017
In the largest and most conclusive study of its kind, researchers have analysed blood samples to create a novel and non-invasive way of helping to diagnose Alzheimer's disease and distinguishing between different types of ...

Researchers unlock the molecular origins of Alzheimer's disease

September 6, 2017
A "twist of fate" that is minuscule even on the molecular level may cause the development of Alzheimer's disease, VCU researchers have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.