New research suggests that elderly patients who develop a close relationship with their Alzheimer's care providers have benefits that extend beyond the social interaction.
Scientists from Utah State and Johns Hopkins Universities assessed the interaction between 167 caregivers and their patients over a four-year period, monitoring patients' health measures and interviewing relatives to determine the levels of closeness.
They found that those who had a close relationship experienced half the rate of mental decline associated with those who did not have a strong connection.
In functional tests, those patients also maintained more of their original abilities.
Lead researcher Dr Constantine Lyketsos says that the study is only an initial one and it does not yet explain why the effect is present.
"A close relationship might prompt caregivers to deliver more attentive treatment, but it might be the other way around, with a milder illness helping caregivers stay close," he notes.
Another tool that may help elderly dementia patients improve mental capacity measures is a reminder board being trialed in Norway.
They can tap the screen, which will show them the date and time, as well as scheduled reminders for daily tasks that can be programmed in by family or caregivers.