Social Science research improves quality of life and care for people with dementia

15 March 2016

A new therapy has led to improvements in the quality of life and care, and increased access to treatment for people living with dementia.

Dr Aimee Spector of University College London and Professor Martin Orrell of the University of Nottingham worked with family-care givers and people with dementia to develop “Individualised Cognitive Stimulation Therapy” (iCST). iCST builds on existing Cognitive Stimulation Therapy practices, which improve aspects of memory and language in people with mild to moderate dementia, and can be delivered on a one-to-one basis by community care workers or family members. This has increased access to treatment for people who would otherwise be unable to benefit from traditional group CST due to health or transport problems, or who prefer individualised interventions.

The therapy features in the latest issue of the Campaign for Social Science’s ‘Making the Case for the Social Sciences 11- Dementia’. The booklet comes as the number of people with dementia in the UK is expected to reach more than 1 million by 2025 at a cost of some £26bn per year. It highlights the ways in which social science research has been at the forefront of responding to this challenge, not only in improving care for people with dementia, but also in outlining new strategies for tackling the condition.

The Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, former Minister of State for Care and Support in the Department of Health, and a longstanding champion of improving dementia care said:

“Dementia is the major challenge of our time in health and social care, and biomedical approaches, while important, are not enough on their own to tackle this problem.

“The social sciences are a crucial tool in this fight. The research in ‘Making the Case for the Social Sciences 11 – Dementia’ demonstrates the impact of the social sciences on improving care and quality of life, as well as in finding long term solutions that will have a lasting effect on people with dementia, their carers, and their families.”

The booklet will be introduced by Mr Lamb at a launch event at the House of Commons on March 15, with a scheduled appearance from Jane Ellison MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health.

The scale and scope of the condition has increasingly caught the attention of government in recent years. In response, the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 2020 was launched to make the UK the world leader in dementia research, committing £20m alone to a social science research programme.

The 14 case studies featured in ‘Making the Case for the Social Sciences 11- Dementia’ include research into Person Centred Care (PCC) and Dementia Care Mapping (DCM), Pioneered by the School of Dementia Studies at the University of Bradford, these approaches have been shown to decrease physical harm to people with dementia, including falls and agitation, while leading to an improvement in staff morale and practice. The booklet also looks at risk management heat-mapping work to help people with dementia and their carers navigate everyday situations.

Other research topics include:
• Dealing with ethical dilemmas in dementia treatment
• Increasing BAME access to services
• Identifying and reducing dementia risk factors through lifestyle modifications
• Improving public understanding of dementia
• Life story work to preserve the identity of people with dementia
• Cognitive rehabilitation in people with early stage dementia
• Measuring and improving outcomes of social care
• Reducing inappropriate antipsychotic medication prescription

The booklet is the 11th in the Making the Case for the Social Sciences series, and is sponsored by The British Psychological Society, Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, The British Society of Gerontology, and The University of Bradford School of Dementia Studies. These booklets are produced by the Academy of Social Sciences and its Campaign for Social Science to demonstrate the power of social science research to improve lives, and are brought together by expert groups led by Academy Fellows.

Other speakers and panellists at the launch will include: Dr Lisa Cameron MP, a clinical psychologist; Baroness Sally Greengross OBE, Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia and Ageing and Older People, and; Colin Capper, Head of Research Development and Evaluation at Alzheimer’s Society.

View the booklet