The average person with dementia in a nursing home experiences only two minutes of social interaction each day.  A new e-learning program that trains caregivers to engage in meaningful social interaction with dementia patients shows great promise for improving the well-being of the patient, according to a new UK study.

“Care home staff are under a lot of pressure — it’s a really tough job. It’s a challenging environment for both residents living with dementia and staff,” said research therapist Joanne McDermid of King’s College London.

“Our programme moved care staff to see dementia through the eyes of those who are living it. We found a simple approach, delivered as e-learning, improves staff attitudes to care and residents’ well-being, ultimately improving lives for people with dementia.”

“In a traditionally task -focussed work environment, our programme reminds us of the human side; of the full life experience of those living with dementia in care.”

The Improving Staff Attitudes and Care for People with Dementia e-Learning (tEACH) study, conducted by the University of Exeter Medical School and King’s College London in partnership with the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2018.

The study involved 280 residents and care staff in 24 care homes over nine months.

The Wellbeing and Health for people with Dementia (WHELD) program trained care home staff to increase social interaction from two minutes a day to ten. This involved adding simple measures such as talking to residents about their interests and including them in decisions related to their care.

The caregivers participated in an e-learning program with key modules based on the WHELD training, with or without Skype supervision. Both treatment arms improved resident well-being and staff attitudes to person-centered care. The Skype supported arm continued to deliver improved resident well-being four months after the trial was completed.

Out of the 170 available training programs for nursing home staff, only three are evidence-based; none of which have been shown to improve quality of life.

“Just take a moment to imagine life with just two minutes of social interaction each day,” said Professor Clive Ballard, of the University of Exeter Medical School.

“To accept this is discrimination against people with dementia. We urgently need to do better. Most care home training programs are not evidence-based. We know our program works over the long term, and we now know it can be delivered remotely. We now need to roll this out to care homes.”

Source: University of Exeter