The Importance of Social Interaction for Dementia Patients
Spending just 10 minutes per day chatting with dementia patients about their interests could improve their quality of life, according to a study in the U.K.
Earlier research has found that many nursing home residents get as little as two minutes of social interaction per day. Because of the absence of safe medications that relieve agitation, a common symptom associated with dementia, scientists conducted a study to determine if increased social stimulation could prove beneficial. The randomized controlled trial was led by the University of Exeter, King’s College London and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. It consisted of a nine-month intervention involving 800 people with dementia residing in nursing homes in the U.K.
The goal was to examine the effects of a person-centered care program, which included involving patients in decisions about their care and talking with them about their interests and families. It incorporated one hour per week of social interactions that ranged from conversations to help with participation in activities, such as gardening or music.
Socialization Improved Quality of Live and Reduced Agitation
In response to these simple measures, the patients showed improvements in quality of life, along with a reduction in aggression and agitation. Patients with moderately severe dementia received the most benefits. In addition, the program saved money, proving less expensive than standard care.
Lead author, Professor Clive Ballard, of the University of Exeter Medical School, 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.”
The researchers would like the program to be implemented in the 28,000 nursing homes in the U.K. to help the 300,000 residents with dementia.
“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,” said Dr. Jane Fossey from the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.
The study was published in PLOS Medicine.
The Value of Social Engagement
Other research shows social stimulation in dementia patients may delay cognitive impairment and reduce the risk of psychological disorders, as well as help preserve the ability to do activities of daily living and lower the risk of falls.
Humans are social creatures, even those who are shy and introverted; so it isn’t surprising that social engagement can be of considerable value. Often amid the challenges of meeting the physical needs of these people, social needs are relegated to a low priority. However, the study shows that the modest time investment of a mere 10 minutes per day in socialization is well worth the effort.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.