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Doctors should prescribe online chat rooms for people with dementia

Doctors should ‘prescribe’ dementia patients online chat rooms ‘so they can find companionship in battle against cruel memory-robbing disease’

  • Researchers analysed 100 conversation threads from Alzheimer’s Society’s tool 
  • Chat rooms helped users adjust to life with the condition, study found 
  • Almost one million people in the UK have been diagnosed with dementia 

Doctors should prescribe online chat rooms to dementia patients to fill a gap in support, a study suggests.

Patients who chatted to others diagnosed with the disease online reported feeling less isolated and worried about the future, a study found.

Experts said the tools including the forum developed by the Alzheimer’s Society, should be prescribed to patients.

Researchers from the University of Bournemouth and the University of Nottingham, analysed 100 conversation threads of the ‘Dementia Talking Point’ hosted by the Alzheimer’s Society

With almost a million people in the UK diagnosed with dementia and numbers set to soar, they say chat rooms could be a cost-effective support tool for the NHS.

Researchers from the University of Bournemouth and the University of Nottingham, analysed 100 conversation threads of the ‘Dementia Talking Point’ hosted by the Alzheimer’s Society.

Chat rooms helped users cope with the initial diagnosis and adjust to life with the condition, they found, making the future less daunting.

It was also useful for sharing experiences of creative activities for therapy, such as painting and crafts.

Users with certain types of dementia, in particular young-onset dementia, commented in their posts about their being a lack of support for specifically for them and they therefore found the forum to be a ‘lifeline’.

Others spoke about finding it difficult to talk to their friends and family members about their condition and taking to the online space allowed them to be honest about what they were experiencing.

The researchers suggest that clinicians, support workers and organisations could recommend online support forums to people with dementia, in addition to providing their regular in-person care

Lead author Dr Catherine Talbot, of Bournemouth University, said: ‘People with dementia have reported feeling isolated, confused, and having a loss of identity after being diagnosed.

‘Our study found that online forums allow them to find companionship with others going through the same experience which can be really valuable to them.’

The research team hope that this study will lead to increased recognition about the value of online support for people living with the condition.

Writing in the journal Age and Ageing, they advise it can provide an additional, cost-effective way to find advice from others who understand what they are going through.

Debbie Ellor, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘No family affected by dementia should face it alone, but sadly our research showed that three in five people didn’t receive enough support in the last year.

‘While there’s clearly power in a likeminded, understanding community that’s easy to access online, ultimately we need more support from the health and social care system for families with dementia.’


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of neurological disorders


Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a range of progressive neurological disorders (those affecting the brain) which impact memory, thinking and behaviour. 

There are many types of dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

Some people may have a combination of different types of dementia.

Regardless of which type is diagnosed, each person will experience dementia in their own unique way.

Dementia is a global concern but it is most often seen in wealthier countries, where people are likely to live into very old age.


The Alzheimer’s Society reports there are more than 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK today. This is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting between 50 and 75 per cent of those diagnosed.

In the US, it’s estimated there are 5.5 million Alzheimer’s sufferers. A similar percentage rise is expected in the coming years.

As a person’s age increases, so does the risk of them developing dementia.

Rates of diagnosis are improving but many people with dementia are thought to still be undiagnosed.


Currently there is no cure for dementia.

But new drugs can slow down its progression and the earlier it is spotted, the more effective treatments can be.

Source: Alzheimer’s Society 

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