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New therapy for dementia patients ‘may help them live independently for longer’

Offering a new therapy to dementia patients and their loved ones could potentially help them stay in their own homes for longer, a study suggests.

Experts said that a “family intervention” package could help see dementia patients “living independently for longer”.

The study, published in the journal Lancet Healthy Longevity, saw 204 people with dementia and their family carers receive the new therapy – called NIDUS-Family – with sessions designed around specific priorities or goals for the dementia patient.

These goals included carrying out more activities, improving their mood, sleep, appetite, relationships or social engagement, or to improve carer support and wellbeing.

These patients were compared with 98 families who received “usual care”.

Those receiving the new support package met with a therapist six to eight times in six months, then received two to four further support phone calls over the next six months.

Families who received the therapy, either in person, over the phone or via video call, were significantly more likely to achieve their goals, according to experts from Queen Mary University of London.

Some 9% of those who received the new therapy moved to a care home or died a year after treatment had ended.

This compared with 13% of patients who did not receive therapy, according to the study, which was funded by the Alzheimer’s Society charity.

The research team said it will keep track of patients to see whether the new support helps people with dementia stay in their own homes longer.

It said the new therapy – which was delivered by “non-clinical facilitators, who were provided with supervision and training” – has the potential to be rolled out across the NHS.

Lead author Professor Claudia Cooper said: “Because NIDUS-Family can be delivered by people without clinical training, it has the potential to enable many more people to access good quality post-diagnostic support.

“NIDUS-Family is the first readily scalable intervention for people with dementia that is proven to improve attainment on personalised goals, and can be remotely delivered, and it should be implemented in health and care services.”

Dr Richard Oakley, associate director of research and innovation at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Currently 900,000 people live with dementia in the UK and for many personalised post-diagnostic support is often lacking, leaving them feeling isolated and vulnerable.

“NIDUS-Family has shown it can help people living with dementia achieve their goals aimed at living independently for longer.

“It is the first post-diagnostic support programme which can be delivered remotely and without clinical training, acting as a lifeline to thousands of carers across the UK.

“We’re delighted that the researchers have secured further funding to take these findings to the next level and make the programme more inclusive and accessible. This will help to deliver the universal care and support people living with dementia desperately need.”