Monthly phone check-in may mean less depression for families of patients with dementia

A monthly, 40-minute phone call from a non-clinical professional may suppress or reverse the trajectory of depression so frequently experienced by family members caring for patients with dementia at home, according to a new study | story via ScienceDaily


A number of studies have pointed to the high incidence of depression in caregivers of patients with dementia This study, published in JAMA found that a simple, relatively inexpensive intervention, with a “care team navigator” operating on the frontline with support from clinicians, may improve the wellbeing of caregivers whose role may be crucial to the patient’s survival and quality of life.

Researchers tracked quality of life and depression for 12 months in 780 patient-plus-caregiver pairs, of whom 86 percent were the spouse or daughter. These pairs included 512 caregivers in the intervention group and 268 caregivers in the “usual care” control group, in which support was limited to a standard list of resources and services and a quarterly newsletter.

The researchers found a drop from 13.4 percent to 7.9 percent in the number of caregivers with moderate-to-severe depression in the intervention group over the course of the year, versus an upswing from 8 percent to 11.1 percent in the number of caregivers with moderate-to-severe depression in the usual care cohort.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full research: Possin KL et al. | Effect of Collaborative Dementia Care via Telephone and Internet on Quality of Life, Caregiver Well-being, and Health Care Use: The Care Ecosystem Randomized Clinical Trial |  JAMA Internal Medicine. Published online September 30, 2019

NHS hospitals wind back the clock for dementia care

NHS hospitals are going back to the future to help patients with dementia by decorating their wards, rooms and corridors in 1940s and 1950s style – creating a calming, familiar environment which can help jog memories, reduce anxiety and distress | via NHS England


Providing the best care for people with dementia and with their families is a key priority for NHS England. With the dementia diagnoses rate among older people at a record high, the Long Term Plan puts in place the building blocks for an effective and compassionate older people’s health service.

Hospitals across the country have revamped their dementia ward decor, with innovations ranging from a ‘memories pub’ to 1950s style ‘reminiscence rooms’ and even a cinema booth where patients can watch old films.

With support from local charities and staff bringing in donations, hospitals like Airedale Hospital in West Yorkshire are going the extra mile to provide a stimulating environment for patients with dementia. In Ward six, patients can relax in a ‘butterfly tea room’ complete with shop front wall mural and vintage memorabilia including a red telephone box. These items from bygone eras can give patients conversational cues and help them talk about the memories they still retain.

Full story: NHS hospitals go back to the future for dementia care | NHS England

Hospitalization at the end of life among nursing home residents with dementia

Falk Hoffmann, Anke Strautmann & Katharina Allers | Hospitalization at the end of life among nursing home residents with dementia: a systematic review | BMC Palliative Care | volume 18, Article number: 77 (2019)


Half of nursing home residents (NHR) suffer from dementia. End-of-life hospitalizations are often burdensome in residents with dementia. A systematic review was conducted to study the occurrence of hospitalizations at the end of life in NHR with dementia and to compare these figures to NHR without dementia.


A systematic literature search in MEDLINE, CINAHL and Scopus was conducted in May 2018. Studies were included if they reported proportions of in-hospital deaths or hospitalizations of NHR with dementia in the last month of life. Two authors independently selected studies, extracted data, and assessed quality of studies.


Nine hundred forty-five citations were retrieved; 13 studies were included. Overall, 7 studies reported data on in-hospital death with proportions ranging between 0% in Canada and 53.3% in the UK. Studies reporting on the last 30 days of life (n = 8) varied between 8.0% in the Netherlands and 51.3% in Germany. Two studies each assessed the influence of age and sex. There seem to be fewer end-of-life hospitalizations in older age groups. The influence of sex is inconclusive. All but one study found that at the end of life residents with dementia were hospitalized less often than those without (n = 6).


We found large variations in end-of-life hospitalizations of NHR with dementia, probably being explained by differences between countries. The influence of sex and age might differ when compared to residents without dementia. More studies should compare NHR with dementia to those without and assess the influence of sex and age.

Full document available from BMC Palliative Care

An Incorrectly Set Watch may Suggest Cognitive Impairment in the Older Patient

Feyzrakhmanova, M. et al. |  An Incorrectly Set Watch may Suggest Cognitive Impairment in the Older Patient | Age and Ageing | Volume 48, Issue Supplement 3|  September 2019

Disorientation to time can be used as a guide to determining the presence and severity of dementia. The inability to maintain one’s wrist watch at the correct time is assessed as a possible marker of dementia.


Inpatients in a post-acute care unit with a mean age of 76.2 (±12.4 years) were assessed with regard to the time on their wristwatch. The time was recorded as correct or incorrect with a permitted discrepancy of 15 minutes. A current Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score was obtained and patients were divided into two groups: MMSE above/equal to or below 24, with the latter defined as an abnormal result.


The most striking finding of this study was that any patient with an incorrectly set watch had an abnormal MMSE. The majority of patients with an abnormal MMSE had their watch set correctly (38%), while only 22% were found to have an incorrectly set watch. All patients with a normal MMSE had their watch set correctly. Acknowledging the fact that conclusions of statistical methods used on a small sample size should be interpreted with caution, we report that the two-tailed Z score for 2 population proportions was 2.9277 (p=0.00338).


This study presents evidence to suggest a relationship between the correctness of the older patient’s watch and their cognitive status. Assessment of time on the patient’s watch could be considered as an instantaneous, approximate “test” for dementia in clinical practice. This test would have a sensitivity of 37% and specificity of 100%.

Respite Care for People with Dementia and their Carers

Emma O’Shea et al. | Respite Care for People with Dementia and their Carers: A Qualitative Study with Multiple Stakeholders | Age and Ageing | Volume 48, Issue Supplement 3 | September 2019 | Pages iii17–iii65


Traditional models of respite, particularly those based within residential care settings, may not always be effective, and there is evidence of low acceptability for some people with dementia and carers. The aim of this study was to synthesise multiple stakeholders’ experiences of respite services for dementia and their perspectives on respite service development.


Purposive sampling was employed. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 35 key stakeholders, including people with dementia (n=6), carers (n=9), front-line staff (n=7), managers (n=8), policy-makers/academics (n=5). Data were interpreted inductively using thematic analysis, with a focus on latent patterns of meaning.


Three salient themes were identified (‘Phases of Transition’, ‘Person-centred Respite Care’; and ‘Recalibrating Respite’). Three distinct phases of respite transitions for people with dementia and carers are discussed. Respite services that actively support transitions through empathic communication regarding clients’ concerns, support needs and preferences are highly valued. Clients described care resembling a ‘person-centred’ approach as their ideal, without using that term, but people with dementia do not always experience this type of care. The majority of providers indicated that they provide ‘person-centred care’, but many demonstrated a poor understanding of the concept; many of these providers have a biomedical view of dementia and the personhood status of people with dementia. Regarding service development, clients would prefer more choice, flexibility and responsiveness, including a shift away from residential provision towards an integrated continuum of personalised, strengths-focused community-based and in-home supports.


Any recalibration of respite towards a home/community focus will require a transformation in how dementia is constructed by society, as well as a significant financial investment. Other implementation considerations include: staffing and staff competency; and the co-ordination, integration and regulation of personalised, home-based care models. Finally, it may be necessary to replace the outdated term ‘respite’ with an alternative nomenclature that is not discordant with person-centred care principles.

Benefits of attending a ‘Dementia First Aid’ course for family caregivers of people with early dementia

Study results suggest that the dementia first aid course is effective in changing the knowledge and attitude of dementia caregivers. It is hoped that this will also enhance their ability and skills of caring, which may in turn reduce caregivers’ sense of burden and wellbeing | British Journal of Medical Practitioners

Objective: Pilot evaluation of the impact of a ‘Dementia First Aid’ (DFA) training course on the knowledge and attitude of family caregivers of people with early dementia.

Methods: The participants in the study were primary family caregivers of people with dementia residing in northwest Hertfordshire. The 4-hour ‘Dementia First Aid’ course was delivered by NHS professionals. The training was organised once every second month from November 2015 till March 2017. The course provided overview of dementia and its impact on the person and their families, mindfulness based stress reduction, and the dementia first aid action plan for crises. The participants were asked to complete the Alzheimer’s disease Knowledge Scale (ADKS) before and after the completion of the course & complete carer burden scale (Zarit Burden Scale). Participants were asked to complete the scales after six months.

Results: The study sample comprised 65 people who had completed the DFA course. All completed pre- and post-training measures (ADK and Zarit burden scale), and a further 34 provided follow-up data approximately 6 months later. The scores were compared using a correlated group t-test. ADK scores improved significantly immediately after attending the course. For the subgroup that completed data at 6 months, the improvement in scores was sustained.

Conclusions: This ‘Dementia First Aid’ course appears to be effective in improving family caregiver’s knowledge of dementia and this knowledge was sustained at 6 months follow up.

Full article: Rahul Tomar et al. | Benefits of attending a ‘Dementia First Aid’ course for family caregivers of people with early dementia: findings of a pilot evaluation | British Journal of Medical Practitioners | 2019;12