Improving outcomes for patients with dementia

Person-centered 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, while saving money.

These are the findings from a large-scale trial led by the University of Exeter, King's College London and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. These results were presented early this week at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2017. The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

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 during four day-long sessions, to take simple measures that such as involve talking to residents about their interests and decisions around their own 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 with standard care. Researchers say the next key challenge is to roll the program to the 28,000 care homes in the UK to benefit the lives of the 300,000 people with dementia living in these facilities. "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. 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," Professor Clive Ballard, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the research, said.

The results are the findings of the Improving Wellbeing and Health for People with Dementia trial, the largest non-pharmacological randomized control trial in people with dementia living in care homes to date.