Background: The extent to which care home residents with severe dementia show awareness is influenced by the extent to which the environment provides opportunities for engagement and by the way in which care staff interact with them. We aimed to establish whether training care staff to observe and identify signs of awareness in residents with severe dementia resulted in improved quality of life for residents.
Methods: In this pilot cluster randomized trial, care staff in four homes (n = 32) received training and supervision and carried out structured observations of residents using the AwareCare measure (n = 32) over an eight-week period, while staff in four control homes (n = 33) had no training with regard to their residents (n = 33) and no contact with the research team. The primary outcome was resident quality of life. Secondary outcomes were resident well-being, behavior and cognition, staff attitudes and well-being, and care practices in the home.
Results: Following intervention, residents in the intervention group had significantly better quality of life as rated by family members than those in the control group, but care staff ratings of quality of life did not differ. There were no other significant between-group differences. Staff participating in the intervention identified benefits in terms of their understanding of residents' needs.
Conclusions: Staff were able to use the observational measure effectively and relatives of residents in the intervention homes perceived an improvement in their quality of life.