Can learning a second language help fight dementia symptoms in care residents?

Residents across Scotland are proving it’s never too late to learn new life skills

A new initiative taking place in care homes across Scotland isn’t just helping residents learn new skills, it is also helping to stave off symptoms of dementia by keeping minds active.

Lingo Flamingo is encouraging 800 residents in care homes, retirement communities and day centres across Scotland to master a new language, and the programme has proven to be a real hit. Residents like 86-year-old Betty initially had reservations about the undertaking, but quickly found that she thoroughly enjoyed the process:

“I thought it would have been really difficult at my age,” said Betty. “You just don’t expect to be able to learn a new language but the lessons were brilliant – it really is great to try new things.”

Having been created two years ago by Robbie Norval, Lingo Flamingo offers Spanish, French, Italian and German language workshops designed to delay the effects of dementia. The classes teach languages in ways that encompass different senses. One week, residents might be singing famous Italian songs, while other at times they may be sipping traditional Spanish wines. Norval comments:

“We have crafted a therapeutic language learning package for those living with dementia. These leisurely classes take into account the medical, physical, and mental health of learners in order to employ the senses, keep the brain active, build confidence and foster connections between participants.”

Norval explains that the reasons behind the programme are twofold. Firstly, the workshops provide residents with an “interactive and exciting activity to undertake where they learn a new language, explore a different culture and have a lot of fun doing so.” Secondly, and arguably more importantly, Norval explains that the workshops are used “as a platform to stimulate the brain — as there is some very interesting research which shows that speaking a second language can delay the effects of dementia as well as aiding with stroke recovery.”

The research Norval refers to is an Italian study published in PNAS. In the study, bilingual individuals showed symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias significantly later than those who only spoke one language — around a 4.5-year delay.

What else can be done to tackle dementia in the care home?

Lingo Flamingo provide residents with a fun way to tackle dementia symptoms, but there are other ways to help treat dementia both before and after it occurs.

Arguably the simplest way to help treat those living with dementia to talk to them. This is shown in a trial funded by the National Institute of Health Research which found that just one hour of social interaction a week can benefit dementia residents.

The study involved over 800 residents with dementia across 69 care homes. It found that increasing the amount of time communicating with residents can boost their wellbeing and comprehension. This can also be done with the implementation of regular activities and clubs, such as gardening.

The way a care home is designed can also have an impact on the wellbeing of dementia residents. The new Care Collection from YTM features attractive and luxurious furniture solutions that cater specifically to the needs of those living with dementia – from profiling beds to encourage mobility and flexibility to panelled wardrobes which make it easier for residents to dress independently. Choosing the right contract furniture can make all the difference when caring for older adults with dementia.

Looking to improve the look and feel of your care home with high quality contract furniture? Contact YTM. Get in touch with our team today on 01977 66 50 50 or leave an enquiry on our website by clicking here.

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