Feb 28, 2018 by Larry Morgan
When it comes to brain conditions, finding effective prevention methods and treatments can be very difficult. Extensive testing, pharmaceutical trials, and perhaps even invasive procedures need to be done just to deal with the severe nature these diseases tend to have.
Dementia accounts for several of these conditions. But what if improving dementia care was as simple as socializing for an extra hour a day? Perhaps it is:
In many nursing homes, a dementia resident on average only receives two minutes of social interaction each day. This perhaps only occurs when they’re being given their medications and food, with small talk in the form of “Hello, how are you?” and that’s it.
Loneliness and isolation are dangerous feelings for a senior to feel, yet they are very common in nursing home residents for this very reason.
This is not to say that every nursing home is this way. There are some that do an excellent job at socializing with their residents and encouraging healthy socialization amongst each other. This unfortunately represents a smaller portion of these homes, though.
It’s important that this lack of socialization for dementia patients changes, as 70% of nursing home residents have dementia. That means 70% of institutionalized seniors are barely seeing the time of day by others, increasing their risk of isolation and loneliness (and therefore, depression and the risk of an early death) drastically.
A new program being tested in England helped to train special nursing home staff personnel to go socialize with residents more, specifically by focusing on person-centered care. This form of socialization completely focuses on the patient and their interests, as well as letting them get involved in decisions being made for their own care.
These care personnel were trained in a quick four days, then divided amongst 69 nursing homes, two per home. Over 800 seniors with dementia from these homes were involved in the trial.
Though this form of care sounds simple, it is quite revolutionary. Dementia patients are typically assumed to be unable to make their own decisions, so at the very least including them in conversations when it comes to their own healthcare can greatly benefit them.
This program merely added an extra hour of socialization into the seniors’ schedules each week, but that 60 minutes made a world of difference.
In dementia care, providers, the patients and their families tend to focus on cognition, memory, and so forth.
It’s important to realize that dementia care should be multi-faceted, which is why these specially trained care personnel are so important. The trial found that after socializing for an extra hour each week, dementia residents had reduced aggression and overall agitation, as well as improved quality of life – other components of dementia care that need to be highlighted more than just overall cognition.
This also helps to save money, as instead of dealing with an agitated dementia patient, having a companion come spend time with them for 15 to 20 minutes a day can make them happier and more cooperative patients. It may even reduce the need for such high dementia medication dosages.
Researchers hope to expand this idea to all of England (as there are over 28,000 nursing homes there). This could benefit the over 300,000 dementia residents living in these homes, and also saving money on multiple ends. Hopefully, within the years to come, this trial could expand to the United States and benefit our seniors, too.