Goal-setting can help people with early-stage dementia improve function

Large trial shows that cognitive rehabilitation helped people mildly affected by dementia to improve their goal setting and attainment. Disappointingly, this wasn’t accompanied by improvements in self-efficacy, depression and anxiety, cognitive functioning, quality of life or carer stress | Health Technology Assessment | via NIHR

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Goal-setting as part of cognitive rehabilitation delivered by occupational therapists helped people with early dementia progress towards independence in daily tasks, with benefits lasting for nine months. This approach focuses on the everyday tasks needing concentration and memory and prioritising those that matter most to individuals, from using the cooker or answering the phone. The intervention was well-received, but the cost-effectiveness is not clear, because quality of life continued to deteriorate.

Therapists delivered ten sessions of cognitive rehabilitation over three months, with another four sessions over the next six months. Rehabilitation was intended to identify goals important to the person with dementia and their carer (including basic self-care and participation in events). The therapist identified barriers to achievement and worked on helping people to overcome them.

Compared to people with early dementia treated with usual care, those given cognitive rehabilitation were more likely to show progress towards their goals after three months. However, secondary outcomes such as quality of life did not show improvement for patients or carers, meaning that the intervention was not cost-effective by usual measures.

Full details at National Institute for Health Research

Clare L, Kudlicka A, Oyebode J R et al.| Goal-oriented cognitive rehabilitation for early-stage Alzheimer’s and related dementias: the GREAT RCT | Health Technol Assess. 2019;23(10).

Daily crosswords linked to sharper brain in later life

Online trial finds that the more regularly people report doing word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain function in later life. |  Via ScienceDaily

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Image source: Jessica Whittle Photography – Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Experts at the University of Exeter Medical School and Kings College London analysed data from more than 17,000 healthy people aged 50 and over, submitted in an online trial.  The study, one of the largest of its kind, used tests from online cognitive test systems to assess core aspects of brain function. They found that the more regularly participants engaged with word puzzles, the better they performed on tasks assessing attention, reasoning and memory.

From their results, researchers calculate that people who engage in word puzzles have brain function equivalent to ten years younger than their age, on tests of grammatical reasoning speed and short term memory accuracy.

Read more at ScienceDaily

People with dementia benefit from goal-orientated therapy

Personalised cognitive rehabilitation therapy can help people with early stage dementia significantly improve their ability to engage in important everyday activities and tasks. | via ScienceDaily

A large-scale trial has found that cognitive rehabilitation leads to people seeing satisfying progress in areas that enable them to maintain their functioning and independence.

Cognitive rehabilitation involves a therapist working with the person with dementia and a family carer to identify issues where they would like to see improvements. Together, they set up to three goals, and the therapist helps to develop strategies to achieve these goals.

The goals participants chose were varied, as dementia affects people in a wide range of ways. Some participants wanted to find ways of staying independent, for example by learning or re-learning how to use household appliances or mobile phones. Some wanted to manage daily tasks better, and worked with therapists on developing strategies to prevent them burning their food when cooking meals. Others wanted to stay socially connected, and focussed on being able to remember details like the names of relatives or neighbours, or improving their ability to engage in conversation. Sometimes staying safe was important, so strategies focused on things like remembering to lock the door at home or withdrawing money safely from a cashpoint.

The Goal-oriented Cognitive Rehabilitation in Early-stage Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias: Multi-centre Single-blind Randomised Controlled Trial (GREAT) trial involved 475 people across eight sites in England and Wales. 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 researchers found that those who took part in the therapy showed 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.

Full story: University of Exeter. “People with dementia benefit from goal-oriented therapy: Personalized cognitive rehabilitation therapy can help people with early stage dementia significantly improve their ability to engage in important everyday activities and tasks.” ScienceDaily. | 18 July 2017.

‘Brain training’ app found to improve memory in people with mild cognitive impairment

A ‘brain training’ game could help improve the memory of patients in the very earliest stages of dementia, suggests a new study. |  International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. | via ScienceDaily

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Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a memory game app, ‘Game Show’,  and have tested its effects on cognition and motivation in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI).

The researchers randomly assigned forty-two patients with amnestic MCI to either the cognitive training or control group. Participants in the cognitive training group played the memory game for a total of eight one-hour sessions over a four-week period; participants in the control group continued their clinic visits as usual.

The results showed that patients who played the game made around a third fewer errors, needed fewer trials and improved their memory score by around 40%, showing that they had correctly remembered the locations of more information at the first attempt on a test of episodic memory.

In addition, participants in the cognitive training group indicated that they enjoyed playing the game and were motivated to continue playing across the eight hours of cognitive training. Their confidence and subjective memory also increased with gameplay. The researchers say that this demonstrates that games can help maximise engagement with cognitive training.

The findings of the study were published this month in The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology suggests

Read more on this story via ScienceDaily and at NHS Choices

Full reference:
Savulich, G et al. Cognitive Training Using a Novel Memory Game on an iPad in Patients with Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (aMCI). International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, published online July 2nd 2017

Interventions to prevent cognitive decline & dementia

Evidence supporting three interventions that might slow cognitive decline and the onset of dementia is encouraging but insufficient to justify a public health campaign focused on their adoption | ScienceDaily

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Image source: NASEM

Cognitive training, blood pressure management for people with hypertension, and increased physical activity all show modest but inconclusive evidence that they can help prevent cognitive decline and dementia, but there is insufficient evidence to support a public health campaign encouraging their adoption, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  Additional research is needed to further understand and gain confidence in their effectiveness, said the committee that conducted the study and wrote the report.

Cognitive Training Interventions for Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease

Kallio, E-L. et al. (2017) Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 56(4): 1349

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Background: Cognitive training (CT) refers to guided cognitive exercises designed to improve specific cognitive functions, as well as enhance performance in untrained cognitive tasks. Positive effects of CT on cognitive functions in healthy elderly people and persons with mild cognitive impairment have been reported, but data regarding the effects of CT in patients with dementia is unclear.

Conclusions: Despite some positive findings, the inaccurate definitions of CT, inadequate sample sizes, unclear randomization methods, incomplete datasets at follow-up and multiple testing may have inflated the results in many trials. Future high quality RCTs with appropriate classification and specification of cognitive interventions are necessary to confirm CT as an effective treatment option in Alzheimer’s disease.

Read the full abstract here