Efficacy of theory-based activities for behavioral symptoms of dementia

Nurs Res. 2005 Jul-Aug;54(4):219-28. doi: 10.1097/00006199-200507000-00003.


Background: Agitation and passivity are behavioral symptoms exhibited by 90% of nursing home residents with dementia. They account for many poor health outcomes, caregiver burden, and increased costs of long-term care.

Objectives: This study tested the efficacy of recreational activities derived from the Need-driven Dementia-compromised Behavior (NDB) model: activities matched to skill level only; activities matched to style of interest only; and a combination of both (NDB-derived) for responding to the behavioral symptoms of dementia.

Methods: Thirty participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 6 possible order-of-condition presentations in this crossover experimental design with repeated measures of dependent variables. Trained research assistants, blind to condition match, implemented each condition for 12 consecutive days. Measures of engagement (time on task and participation), affect, and behavioral symptoms (agitation and passivity) were taken from videotape recordings of each session. Mood was measured with the Dementia Mood Picture Test. The primary analysis method was mixed-model analysis of variance.

Results: Significantly more time on task, greater participation, more positive affect, and less passivity were found under NDB-derived and matched to interest only treatments compared with the matched to skill level only treatment or baseline. Agitation and negative affect improved under all treatments compared with baseline. There was no significant change in mood.

Discussion: The NDB-derived activities are tailored to meet individual needs and improve behavioral symptoms associated with dementia. These findings help to explain factors that produce behavioral symptoms and the mechanisms that underlie their successful treatment.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dementia / complications*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / prevention & control*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Nursing Theory
  • Personality
  • Psychological Theory
  • Psychomotor Agitation / diagnosis
  • Psychomotor Agitation / etiology
  • Psychomotor Agitation / prevention & control*
  • Psychomotor Agitation / psychology
  • Recreation* / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Videotape Recording