Personalized Daily Chats Helps Calm People with Dementia

As caregivers, family members of elderly loved-ones may feel stretched between work, unpaid caregiving, their own family’s needs and trying to keep themselves healthy.  Other friends and relatives may ask what they can do to help, especially with seniors who have dementia, and new research out of England may have the answer; stop in for a chat.

Social isolation and loneliness are growing problems for seniors, especially those who live alone and it is no less a concern for older adults with dementia.  As we age, it’s the simple things that often give us the most joy and face-to-face interaction is a critical for older adults to remain connected with their communities and feel valued. 

Researchers studied more than 800 patients with dementia in 69 care facilities over a period of nine months.  After learning more about each patient from their families and individual interviews, staff were trained to personalize care with conversations totaling roughly an hour a week.   By simply engaging in daily 10 minute chats about the patient’s family, interests or favorite activities, agitation and other symptoms of dementia were decreased and quality of life improved.

Even as little as two minutes of direct, daily personal social interaction was found to have a benefit for residents with dementia.  Developing a relationship with the patients helped staff better manage their charges and making the time for a daily chat could eventually help reduce costs and the need for medications to keep patients calm.

In nursing homes, many of the activities are done in groups where people with dementia may not engage.  One-to-one personalized interactions are more beneficial to residents with dementia and researchers found a significant reduction in anger and agitation among patients as a result of daily talks. It’s pretty simple; we all want to feel a connection with others, to be heard and seen and valued and people with dementia are no different.  Compassionate care will include personal interaction.

To read the study, published by PLOS Medicine, follow this link to the online journal article.