Less Active Dementia Patients Face Lower Quality of Life

Posted on December 5, 2016

Photo: flickr

Dementia patients living in long-term care often have very low levels of activity, and this strongly contributes to a low quality of life, according to a new large-scale national study by the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre and Griffith University in Australia.

Findings suggest that family members and staff tend to be less optimistic regarding the capabilities of dementia patients to become engaged in meaningful activities.

Dr. Wendy Moyle from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland highlighted the importance of activity and just because people with dementia may be cognitively impaired, it does not mean that they should be excluded from any engagement in an activity.

She added on that by missing out in activities will only further lower cognitive ability, but also the potential for there being an unmet need in the person. Behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia such as agitation and wandering may be exhibited and result in an increased need for medication.

The study involved 53 residential aged care facilities in Australia. The researchers measured the participation levels across 15 leisure activities for residents with dementia (five items indoors and 10 items outdoors). For the 191 residents who were able to rate their own activity, the average score was 11.4 out of 30, with zero being the lowest participation rate and 30 being the highest.

The average score of 9.6 was noticed among the 435 staff members who surveyed in the study. The score was even lower than the people with dementia who self-reported on activities. Family members were found to be the most pessimistic regarding the degree to which they believed their loved one with dementia could engage in leisure activities, with an average score of seven.
The study also tested the levels of cognitive impairment (brain function) and found that this was not related to the resident’s assessment of their activity participation.

“There seemed to a wrongly held assumption by staff and family with severe or late stage dementia, not capable of leisure activity or that they do not require the stimulation of activities. Although these people see themselves as having lower ability, in fact, they do have the capacity for a lot more,’ added Dr Moyle.

A similar pattern was noticed, as all three groups within the study rated those who they saw as more depressed, as having lower activity levels.

“Maintaining quality of life for people with dementia living in long-term care is important, as there is no cure for this prevalent condition,” said Moyle. “When people with dementia go into long-term care, there is a belief that they will be more engaged in activities and will experience an improved quality of life. This unfortunately is not always the case.”

Leisure activities are proven to be of relation to the overall quality of life and Moyle suggested a higher staff-to-resident rations in care homes, with the potential for integrating increased numbers of volunteers to provide more leisure activities within the care setting.

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Source material from Psych Central