Anyone who has a family member with dementia knows the heartbreak of watching him or her suffer from memory loss and declining mental abilities. Something just as heartbreaking is that the majority of people with dementia only have approximately two minutes of social interaction per day. How sad!
But the good news is that a February 2018 study says there's a pretty simple way to improve these dear people's lives: Just keep talking to them. The conversation doesn't need to last all day or delve into complex topics. The new research, published in PLOS Medicine, found that increasing the amount of socializing to just one hour a week can improve the lives of patients with dementia when combined with personalized care.
The research, which included more than 800 people with dementia in England, involved a trial care program with two "care staff champions" at each care home. These staff members were tasked with taking a "person-centered approach," which involved taking simple measures like speaking to residents about their interests and topics related to their own care. As a result, the program not only improved these people's quality of life, but also reduced their agitation and aggression.
"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," lead researcher Clive Ballard, PhD said in a release. "Our approach improves care and saves money. We must roll out approaches that work to do justice to some of the most vulnerable people in society."
So the next time you see someone with dementia — even if you're meeting them for the first time — it's worth taking some time out of your day to talk to them. It takes such little effort and can make such a huge difference!