Just a slight increase in social interaction benefits older adults with dementia and lowers health care costs, a new British study suggests.
“People with dementia who are living in [nursing] homes are among the most vulnerable in our society,” said study leader Clive Ballard. He’s a professor at the University of Exeter Medical School in England.
“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,” Ballard said in a university news release.
The study included more than 800 dementia patients living in 69 nursing homes in the U.K. Two staff members at each home were trained to engage in simple social activities with the patients. This included talking to them about their interests and decisions about their care.
When combined with just one hour a week of social interaction, it improved patients’ quality of life and eased their agitation, the researchers said.
This strategy also saved money compared to standard care, according to the study. The results were scheduled for presentation Sunday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London.
“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, of 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,” she added.
Studies presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on dementia.
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