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Stroking pets and joining choirs ‘helps dementia patients’

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said activities can help dementia patients reconnect.

People with dementia should be offered activities such as singing and stroking pets, experts say (Joe Giddens/PA)
People with dementia should be offered activities such as singing and stroking pets, experts say (Joe Giddens/PA)

Stroking a pet could improve the well-being of people with dementia, health officials say.

In new recommendations, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said those with dementia should be offered activities such as exercise, aromatherapy, art, gardening, baking, choirs and opportunities to reminisce about the past.

Professor Gillian Leng, director of health and social care at Nice, said: “People with dementia can find it harder to take part in activities, to engage socially, to maintain their independence, to communicate effectively, to feel in control and to care for themselves.

“Providing enjoyable and health-enhancing activities like music or reminiscence therapy can help with this.

“Understanding the activities that a person prefers and thinks are suitable and helpful, and adapting them to their strengths and needs, will make a person more likely to engage with the activities offered and therefore more likely to benefit from them.”

Just because someone has dementia, it shouldn’t mean they are robbed of the things we all take for granted – spending time with others, exercise and hobbies all have a huge impact on our sense of well-being Sally Copley, Alzheimer's Society

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock  said: “As a society there’s so much more we can do to help people live well with dementia.

“Whether it’s joining a choir, gardening or enjoying art classes, so many activities can help people live better and can trigger precious memories and help reconnect them with their communities.

“So I wholeheartedly endorse this quality standard, which supports the ambitions of our NHS long-term plan and its move to a more personalised and person-centred care.”

The new recommendations also call for dementia carers to be given skills training, such as dealing with changes in behaviour.

Sally Copley, director of policy and campaigns at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It’s great that Nice quality standards now recognise how important social interaction, music and the arts are to the 850,000 people with dementia across the UK.

“As we’ve seen first-hand from our Singing from the Brain groups, such activities help people to feel valued and able to continue doing the things they enjoy.

“Just because someone has dementia, it shouldn’t mean they are robbed of the things we all take for granted – spending time with others, exercise and hobbies all have a huge impact on our sense of well-being.”

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