Therapy that helps people with dementia maintain lifestyles is rolled out


A technique that helps people living with dementia to see satisfying progress in achieving everyday goals, is now being trialled by Sunrise Senior Living UK.

The University of Exeter is leading a programme to train carers in goal-orientated cognitive rehabilitation. It entails practitioners working with people living with dementia and their carers to establish goals that are most important to helping people maintain their lifestyle. These differ depending on the individual, ranging from cooking food, to remembering the names of loved ones. The practitioner works with the person and the carer to put in place strategies to help them achieve these goals.

The technique has been found to be successful. The Multi-centre Single-blind Randomised Controlled Trial (GREAT) was a large-scale study involving 475 people across eight sites in the UK. Half of them received ten cognitive rehabilitation sessions over three months, and the other half did not. The group receiving the therapy then took part in four ‘top-up’ sessions over six months.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and supported by Alzheimer’s Society, found that those who took part in the therapy demonstrated significant improvement in the areas they had identified, after both the ten week and ‘top-up’ sessions. Family carers agreed that their performance had improved. Both participants and carers were happier with the participants’ abilities in the areas identified.

Now, as a result, the Alzheimer’s Society has funded the University researchers to implement the technique by offering training to staff in NHS Trusts and social care organisations providing care to people with dementia, and Sunrise Senior Living UK communities are amongst the organisations that are signed up: Sunrise of Tettenhall, Sunrise of Eastbourne, Sunrise of Chorleywood and Sunrise of Edgbaston.

The goals participants choose vary, as dementia affects people in a wide range of ways. Some participants want to find ways of staying independent, for example, by learning or re-learning how to use household appliances or mobile phones. Some want to manage daily tasks better, perhaps by developing reminders to remember their keys and purse when they go shopping. Others want to stay socially connected, and focussed on improving their ability to engage in conversation. Sometimes staying safe is important, so strategies focus on practical challenges like withdrawing money safely from a cashpoint.

Jackie Pool, Director of Memory Care at Sunrise Senior Living UK and Gracewell Healthcare, said:

“We are absolutely delighted to be working closely with the University of Exeter and trialling this ground-breaking technique, which will enable residents at our Sunrise  homes, who have a form of dementia, to live better, more enriched lives. There are so many proven benefits to offering cognitive rehabilitation and therapy in dementia care and we look forward to testing out these methods and reporting the results. This 12-month trial is just one of the many initiatives that we as an organisation are implementing, as part of our ongoing enriched memory care programme that will allow residents living with dementia to further improve quality of life and live well for longer.”

Dr Krystal Warmoth, of the University of Exeter, is Project Manager for the implementation of the therapy. She said:

“Our research has shown that cognitive rehabilitation can help people achieve the goals that matter most to them. This is essential in demonstrating that dementia is not an inevitable decline in all areas, and in providing people with the simple tools to live as well as possible with the condition. We’re excited to roll this out, so more people can benefit.”

Professor Linda Clare, of the University of Exeter, oversees the research programme. She said:


“Our work focusses around supporting people to live as well as possible with dementia. There’s plenty that we can do, and exactly what strategy we put in place depends on individual need. Helping people to maintain their lifestyles is really important to retaining independence, functional ability and overall quality of life.”


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