Dementia care improved by just one hour of social interaction each week

February 6, 2018, University of Exeter
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Increasing the amount of social interaction for people with dementia living in care homes to just one hour a week improves quality of life when combined with personalised care.

A large-scale trial led by the University of Exeter, King's College London and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust found that the approach also saves money.

Previous research has found that in many care homes, residents have as little as two minutes of per day.

The new research, funded by the National Institute of Health Research and published today in the journal PLOS Medicine, upskilled key care staff to deliver person-centred care. That involves simple measures such as talking to residents about their interests and involving them in decisions around their own care.

When combined with just one hour a week of social interaction, the programme improved quality of life and reduced agitation and aggression in with dementia.

Professor Clive Ballard, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the research, said: "While many care homes are excellent, standards still vary hugely. We have previously found that the average amount of social interaction for people with dementia was just two minutes a day. It's hardly surprising when that has a knock-on effect on quality of life and agitation.

"Our approach improves care and saves money. We must roll out approaches that work to do justice to some of the most vulnerable people in society. Incredibly, of 170 carer training manuals available on the market, only four are based on evidence that they really work. That is simply not good enough - it has to change."

The trial involved more than 800 people with dementia 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. 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.

Dr Jane Fossey from the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Taking a person-centred approach is about getting to know each resident as an individual - their interests and preferences - and reflecting these in all aspects of care. 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."

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.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research at 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.

"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.

"Alzheimer's Society is committed to improving dementia care through research. That means getting interventions like this put into practice, and funding further research to improve the quality of life for people with in their own homes, and hospitals."

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

More information: Clive Ballard et al. Impact of person-centred care training and person-centred activities on quality of life, agitation, and antipsychotic use in people with dementia living in nursing homes: A cluster-randomised controlled trial, PLOS Medicine (2018). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002500 , journals.plos.org/plosmedicine … journal.pmed.1002500

Related Stories

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

July 16, 2017
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.

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 ...

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.

Access to nature among top considerations when designing buildings for people with dementia

December 1, 2017
Buildings designed for people living with dementia must prioritise unrestricted access to nature, support for wayfinding and navigation, and the safety of the environment, new research has found.

Improving nutrition in people with dementia

May 20, 2015
With over 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, ensuring dignity in their care and wellbeing is a critical issue. New research from Bournemouth University, funded by the Burdett Trust, has been investigating how to improve ...

'Lesser of two evils' argument used to defend antipsychotic overuse for dementia

November 22, 2017
The increasing use of antipsychotic drugs to manage dementia in care homes has been explained by some practitioners as "the lesser of two evils", despite clear risks for patients.

Recommended for you

Machine learning uncovers dementia subtypes with implication for drug trials

October 22, 2018
Machine learning could help to find new treatments for dementia, according to researchers at UCL.

Losing control of gene activity in Alzheimer's disease

October 22, 2018
Pioneering research into the mechanisms controlling gene activity in the brain could hold the key to understanding Alzheimer's disease and might help identify effective treatments in the future.

Deep brain stimulation not effective for treating early Alzheimer's

October 22, 2018
A new study from Johns Hopkins shows that individuals with early onset Alzheimer's disease—those under the age of 65—don't benefit from deep brain stimulation, a treatment already proven to be effective for easing motor ...

Hypothesis underpinning dementia research 'flawed'

October 16, 2018
A hypothesis which has been the standard way of explaining how the body develops Alzheimer's Disease for almost 30 years is flawed, according to a University of Manchester biologist.

Study suggests biological basis for depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances in older adults

October 15, 2018
UC San Francisco researchers, in collaboration with the unique Brazilian Biobank for Aging Studies (BBAS) at the University of São Paulo, have shown that the earliest stages of the brain degeneration associated with Alzheimer's ...

Many cases of dementia may arise from non-inherited DNA 'spelling mistakes'

October 15, 2018
Only a small proportion of cases of dementia are thought to be inherited—the cause of the vast majority is unknown. Now, in a study published today in the journal Nature Communications, a team of scientists led by researchers ...

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.