Just one hour of social interaction a week can make a difference to the lives of people living with dementia.
It’s not exactly news that talking to others is good for our mental health. Social interaction, feeling connected, sharing how we feel - it’s all such a big part of our emotional wellbeing. It’s no surprise then, that it’s exactly the same for people with dementia.
What is surprising though is that, according to a recent study, even a small amount of social interaction is enough to significantly improve the quality of life of people living with dementia.
Experts claim that as little as one hour a week is enough to have a substantial impact on a dementia sufferer’s overall wellbeing, as well as significantly reducing their levels of anger and agitation.
One hour a week - that’s as little as 10 minutes per day.
And, it’s not an hour of additional care - this social interaction can be included as part of the person’s existing care routine.
The nine-month study involved more than 800 people with dementia across 69 care homes in London and Buckinghamshire. Staff in the homes were trained to learn about their patients' interests and ask them and their families questions about the care they received. This not only led to care that was more personalised but also allowed for an hour of quality social interaction.
Prof 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.”
The approach recommended by the study claims to not only improve care, but also to save money - primarily within care homes, but also for the wider social care system, too.
"This kind of effective care can reduce costs, which the stretched social care system desperately needs.”
With an estimated 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, it has been described as the biggest health challenge facing the country. With that figure expected to increase to more than 1 million by 2025 (according to Alzheimer’s Society), there will be increasing demands faced by our healthcare system.
Doug Brown, the director of research at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This study shows that training to provide this type of individualised care, activities and social interactions can have a significant impact on the wellbeing 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.”
Discover ‘How to deal with a dementia diagnosis’ on Counselling Directory.