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German researchers from the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg concluded that dementia patients who took part in two hours of such activities were better able to carry out everyday tasks than those treated with medication only.
The study involved dementia patients from five nursing homes who were split into two groups. Both groups carried on taking anti-dementia drugs.
One group continued with their usual activities while the second took part in two-hour group sessions that involved singing, gentle activities such as bowling or croquet, everyday tasks such as gardening and various puzzles.
The cognitive ability of those that took part in the group therapy sessions did not deteriorate over the 12-month period of the study, while the condition appeared to progress in those continuing with their usual nursing home activities.
Professor Elmar Graessel, whose study was published in the journal BioMed Central Medicine, claims group therapy sessions were "at least as good" at maintaining cognitive abilities as widely-used anti-dementia drugs known as cholineterase inhibitors.
He wrote, "We found that the effect on the patients' ability to perform daily living tasks was twice as high as achieved by medication."
Prof Graessel now hopes to extend the study to ascertain whether the progression of dementia can be prevented for longer than one year, thereby improving the "quality of, and participation in, life for people with dementia within a nursing home environment".
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