The purpose of this study was to explore the nature of informal social interaction among people with dementia residing in special care units and to provide insight into the role of the social and physical environments in facilitating or hindering these spontaneous interactions. An ethnographic approach was used including in-depth interviews with staff members and resident observations. Findings revealed that residents within special care units engage in several types of informal social interactions including: 1) active verbal communications, 2) brief verbal communications, 3) touching, 4) gesture, 5) glancing, 6) attention seeking, and 7) other non-verbal communication. This study also found that social environmental factors such as staff work roles and resident group size as well as physical environmental features such as the presence of multiple sightlines, transitions spaces, low noise levels, and the nursing station location play a crucial role in influencing informal social interaction within a dementia care setting.
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