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The power of a good book, or a moving piece of poetry, is being demonstrated for people with dementia who are living in care homes

Many care homes are cottoning onto how reading, particularly reading in groups, is effective in helping people with dementia to feel happier and more content.

In fact, research published by the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (Crils) at the University of Liverpool has found that while any reading helps sharpen the minds of older people, shared reading in groups offers particular benefits. Almost 90% of participants reported uplifted mood, better concentration and better long- and short-term memory.

Other benefits include reduced levels of agitation, while older people’s sense of connectedness to a wider community was also improved by taking part in reading groups.

What’s more, further studies commissioned by NHS North West, found poetry was particularly beneficial. Its 2014 report, Read to Care, focused on poetry for reading groups – particularly for people living with dementia. It found that poetry engaged emotions and triggered memory, while the compressed and intense language offered an immediacy and impact that was different to prose. As part of the research, participants – even those with severe dementia – were prompted to recall poetry learned by heart at school.

Many care homes are cottoning onto this fact, and setting up reading groups, and specific areas or libraries for people to sit and read.

The director of Crils, Philip Davis, who is also a literature professor at Liverpool University, has set up a Liverpool-based charity called The Reader. It aims to connect people with dementia through a shared interest in reading, and establish is a non-medical way to help people with the condition. He claims that reading can be a lot more dynamic and newer than reminiscence activities, which are increasingly popular with dementia.

‘The thoughts seem fresh… People find them coming to mind in relation to new things they have never read before.’

The impact of reading benefits all involved, including care home staff, who report that they can start reducing medication for agitation because residents are happier and more relaxed. Families who come to visit enjoy reading to their relative and they gain insights into them that they didn’t know about. Plus, younger visitors can enjoy reading children’s books with their relatives, which can be easier for the person with dementia to understand.

To view our selection of books on Unforgettable, click here.

Source: The Guardian