Read to Care: Shared Reading groups and Quality of Life benefits for people living with Dementia

BUPA care home 1 online“Isn’t if funny? We come in with nothing and go out with all these thoughts.” – reading group member, living with dementia

The Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society (CRILS) at the University of Liverpool has published ‘Read to Care‘, an evaluation report of a research project investigating the quality of life benefits and impacts for people living with dementia in shared reading activity across Merseyside.

CRILS is a research unit dedicated to investigating the effect of reading serious literature in the wider world, with a view to benefits in health and wellbeing, and is The Reader Organisation’s research partner. In 2012, CRILS evaluated TRO’s shared reading programme for people living with dementia with support from the Headley Trust ‘A Literature-Based Intervention for Older People Living with Dementia’ showed that shared reading provided marked improvements in agitation levels, mood levels and concentration levels for participants, as well as improved social interaction.

Developing from this, TRO was commissioned by NHS North West to undertake a follow-up study of the effects of shared reading in Care Homes in Wirral. The aim of the project was to further investigate the impact engaging in a shared reading group activity has upon people living with dementia, adding to and supporting a growing body of anecdotal evidence.

In ‘Read to Care’, particular consideration is given to:

  • the uses of powerfully emotional literature to trigger awakenings in people living with dementia;
  • the value of literature in offering emotional experiences too often feared to be ‘negative’;
  • the kind of memory that is stimulated by shared reading – different from working memory or from what is achieved through reminiscence therapy;
  • the additional effect on relatives and carers

The conclusions and recommendations of the report show that shared reading groups significantly improve the quality of life of people living with dementia, as well as providing valuable benefit to care workers and relatives in encouragement of remaining human possibilities.

“Reading aloud when others are there to listen, the sense of being in a unified community, has been the privilege of Poets for millenia. And it works. The words – common to all, unite minds and the shared stimulus appears to have an uplifting group effect.” – Melvyn Bragg (preface to Read to Care)

The report will be the focus of a presentation held at the University of Liverpool this November. Professor Phil Davis, Director of CRILS, will present findings from Read to Care, alongside one of The Reader Organisation’s project workers who was involved in the practical delivery of the groups participating in the project. Anyone interested in dementia and the relationship between literature, health and wellbeing is welcome to discover more.

‘Read to Care: Shared Reading Groups & Quality of Life Benefits for People Living With Dementia’ with Professor Phil Davis is on Thursday 20th November, 6.00pm, at Lecture Theatre 1, Sherrington Building, Ashton Street (off Pembroke Place), University of Liverpool.

Cost: £20, including buffet supper.

For more information and to book your place, download this registration form, and return to Joan Scott in the University of Liverpool CPD team at iltcpd@liv.ac.uk or telephone 0151 794 5776.

An Evaluation of a Literature Based Intervention for People with Chronic Pain

chronic pain study 1 72dpiThe latest research into the effects shared reading is having as a non-medical, literature based intervention into health conditions has been published by The Reader Organisation and research partners.

The study, carried out by a partnership between the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems (CRILS) at University of Liverpool and The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen NHS Hospital Trust, investigates the impact of shared reading for people living with chronic pain when delivered in a clinical setting. As part of the research, The Reader Organisation held a regular shared reading group at Broadgreen Hospital for patients with chronic pain who had been recruited from pain clinics around the Trust.

Intital results from the study, which was examined in a seminar at last year’s National Conference, have proved to show positive impacts in the relationship between shared reading, alleviation of pain symptoms and improved psychological wellbeing, with factors such as absorbed concentration upon the literature, a sense of community, comradeship and social connections being established and an enhanced quality of life all emerging for patients taking part in the group. The study follows previous research from CRILS which focused upon shared reading in relation to mental health conditions and is the first time data has been collected on physical health and a literature-based intervention.

People living with chronic pain have three times the average risk of developing psychiatric symptoms such as mood or anxiety disorders, and in turn depressed patients have three times the average risk of developing chronic pain. One of the contributing researchers, Dr Andrew Jones from Broadgreen Hospital, commented that the study gave a positive indication for patients with chronic pain:

“Early indications are showing that the reading group is making a difference to people in our hospital. But there is something intangible, a deeper impact beyond that, which we can’t measure using existing qualitative research methods. While there is already evidence of the mental health benefits of shared reading, little is known about the benefits for physical health, but the link between chronic pain and psychiatric symptoms indicate it could help.”

The study contains several first-hand accounts from patients who took part, talking about their experiences of attending the group:

“It’s my little island…a safe haven…it’s very informal and comfortable”

“I don’t have pain when we are discussing or reading the story…the whole thing is read out and I don’t have any pain.”

“I’ve really, really got to concentrate…and that’s what it makes me do. It makes me concentrate and listen.”

Though more research is needed into exploring the relationship between chronic pain, reduced symptoms and a shared reading intervention, this initial study gives positive indication that further work can be established and could be extended to dialysis wards and other areas of physical health at Broadgreen and the Royal Hospitals. The shared reading group set up for the study at Broadgreen proved so popular that The Reader Organisation has been commissioned to run sessions there for the next three years.

‘An Evaluation of a Literature Based Intervention for People with Chronic Pain’ is now available to download on our website, where more can be found out about our research projects with CRILS: http://www.thereader.org.uk/what-we-do-and-why/research

CRILS will be at Better with a Book, The Reader Organisation’s National Conference 2014, examining footage of shared reading groups in action as part of their AHRC funded research project on the cultural value of shared reading as opposed to other cultural activities. Places are still available for you to hear more about the relationship between literature, shared reading and its effects on individuals, communities and organisations at The British Library Conference Centre on Thursday 15th May: http://www.thereader.org.uk/events/conference