Purpose: To evaluate the current state of research evidence related to cognitive interventions for individuals with Alzheimer's disease or related dementias.
Method: A systematic search of the literature was conducted across 27 electronic databases based on a set of a priori questions, inclusion/exclusion criteria, and search parameters. Studies were appraised for methodological quality and categorized according to intervention technique and outcome (e.g., cognitive-communication impairment or activity limitation/participation restriction). Results were summarized and, when possible, analyzed quantitatively using indicators of treatment effect size.
Results: Forty-three studies met criteria for inclusion in the review. The most commonly used cognitive intervention techniques used were errorless learning, spaced-retrieval training, vanishing cues, or verbal instruction/cueing. Most treatment outcomes were measured at the cognitive-communication impairment level of functioning and were generally positive. However, results should be interpreted cautiously because of methodological limitations across studies.
Conclusions: Research evidence to support the use of cognitive interventions for individuals with dementia is accumulating. Researchers are beginning to evaluate treatment efficacy, yet the focus tends to be on discovery, specifically, refining intervention variables that will facilitate optimal outcomes. Implications for clinical practice and avenues for future research are discussed.