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Elderly woman with nurse at United Hebrew assisted living home.

An Hour a Week of Socialization Alleviates Dementia Symptoms

Having personal conversations for just one hour a week with people who have dementia can improve their quality of life and reduce the agitation associated with the disease, according to a study conducted by the University of Exeter Medical School in the UK.

The study found that increasing the amount of time spent communicating with residents who have dementia about their interests, abilities, families, and the care they receive boosted their overall well-being.

Learn about our approach to memory care 

Over a nine-month period, the study tracked more than 800 residents of dementia care facilities. Staff were trained to learn about their patients’ interests, to ask questions of them and their families about their care, and to help them take part in social activities like gardening and music.

The results, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, showed significant improvements in the behavior and demeanor of participating residents when compared to those not in the program. The one-to-one person-centered approach not only engaged them more, improving their quality of life, it proved to reduce the residents’ anger and aggression.

“I think what this is suggesting is that relatively simple things, if implemented robustly, can actually make a real difference to people’s quality of life,” said Professor Clive Ballard, who led the research.

Personalized approach to dementia care

Worldwide, 50 million people are living with dementia. The disease affects nearly 6 million Americans, and here in the Hudson Valley, over 40,000 residents. Staff training is critical to ensuring residents benefit from the latest practices in memory care, says Nora O’Brien, PT, DPT, executive director of Willow Gardens Memory Care.

“This study affirms what we have long observed,” she says. “Conversation and social activity stimulate the mind and help residents connect to each other, their caregivers, their families, and the world around them.”

At Willow Gardens, staff members from every department—including administration, clinical, activities, housekeeping, dietary and more—are trained so that they are comfortable and confident in interacting and caring for individuals with dementia. Willow Gardens offers an array of activities including art, music, and movement classes, pet therapy, musical entertainment and singalongs, puzzles and games, faith-based services, excursions to local parks and destinations.

“Having compassionate caregivers who listen to patients’ stories and frustrations can be comforting to those with Alzheimer’s or dementia,” adds Dr. O’Brien. “They feel supported and more secure, and have a greater sense of belonging to a community.”

To learn more about memory care at Willow Gardens, call 914-336-2338 or email gferri@uhgc.org.