The effects of participation in leisure activities on neuropsychiatric symptoms of persons with cognitive impairment: a cross-sectional study

Int J Nurs Stud. 2013 Oct;50(10):1314-25. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2013.01.002. Epub 2013 Feb 11.


Background: People with cognitive impairment have been shown to engage in few structured activities. During periods of unoccupied time or boredom, these patients most likely manifest neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Objective: The purposes of this study were to (1) describe the leisure-activity indicators (variety in leisure activities, appraisal of each activity's restorative function, and leisure dysfunction, i.e. failure to appreciate the importance of restorative aspects of leisure activity), of community-dwelling older Taiwanese adults with cognitive impairment, and (2) explore the relationships between these indicators and neuropsychiatric symptoms in this population.

Design: Cross-sectional.

Setting: Memory disorder and geriatric psychiatric clinics of two hospitals in northern Taiwan.

Participants: Patient-family caregiver dyads (N=60).

Method: Patients' dementia severity, based on Clinical Dementia Rating scores, was 0.5-2.0. Family caregivers completed the Chinese Neuropsychiatric Inventory to assess patients' behavioral problems and the Restorative Activity Questionnaire to assess patients' participation in leisure activities, restorative experience, and leisure dysfunction.

Results: On average, patients participated in approximately five individual leisure activities, but very few group leisure activities. The top three leisure activities were watching TV, taking a walk, and talking to relatives and friends. The leisure activities in which participants least commonly engaged were fishing, attending cultural exhibitions, and chess/card playing. All leisure-activity indicators were significantly correlated with disease stage, global cognitive function, and neuropsychiatric symptoms. Two leisure-activity indicators (leisure dysfunction and restorative experiences) were significantly correlated with depressive symptoms. Only leisure dysfunction significantly and consistently predicted neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Conclusion: These results can be used by home health or community health nurses to design tailored leisure-activity plans for improving the care quality of patients with cognitive impairment. Health professionals can develop leisure-education programmes to emphasize the value of leisure pursuit and to modify attitudes toward participating in leisure activities. Finally, parks and recreational agencies may re-examine their services and facilities to meet the increasing needs of this population.

Keywords: Cognitive impairment; Dementia; Leisure activity; Neurolopsychological symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Recreation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires