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

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 and save money.

These are the findings of a large-scale trial, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and led by the University of Exeter, King’s College London and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.

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 such as talking to residents about their interests and decisions around their 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 out 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.”

Dr Jane Fossey of 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.”

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.

The project included collaboration from University College London, the universities of Hull and Bangor, and Alzheimer’s Society.

 

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