Impact of training dementia caregivers in sensitivity to nonverbal emotion signals

Int Psychogeriatr. 2002 Mar;14(1):25-38. doi: 10.1017/s1041610202008256.


Ninety-one mid- to late-stage dementia patients residing in nursing homes, along with their staff caregivers, participated in a study designed to assess whether training caregivers in sensitivity to nonverbal communication could enhance mood and reduce symptoms in patients and improve psychological well-being in caregivers. Patients and staff at three nursing homes comprised three groups that were randomly assigned to either a nonverbal sensitivity group, a behavioral placebo group that received instruction in the cognitive and behavioral aspects of dementia, and a wait-list control. Training consisted of 10 one-hour sessions taught by a clinical psychologist using prepared materials. Patient measures, which were taken at baseline and at 4 three-week intervals, included patient symptomatology (depression, agitation, behavioral symptoms), as reported by the staff caregivers, and positive and negative facial expressions of emotion elicited during a face-to-face interview and coded by trained research staff. Results indicated that positive affect increased sharply during the first 6 weeks after intervention in the nonverbal group, with the placebo and wait-list controls showing no change. There was also a decline in negative affect across time for all groups. Effects with respect to patient symptomatology did not reach significance. Caregivers in both training groups showed a decline in symptomatology, whereas the wait-list control group did not.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attention
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Caregivers / education*
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Cues
  • Dementia / nursing*
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Education, Nursing, Continuing / organization & administration*
  • Emotions
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training / organization & administration*
  • Male
  • Nonverbal Communication*
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Nursing Education Research
  • Nursing Homes
  • Nursing Staff / education*
  • Nursing Staff / psychology
  • Program Evaluation