Self-management programs are effective for people living with chronic illnesses. However, there has been little research addressing self-management for people with dementia in the early stages. This study presents a qualitative evaluation of the experiences of attending a novel self-management program and initial process evaluation. The program was designed with and for people with dementia. It addresses: (a) relationship with family, (b) maintenance of an active lifestyle, (c) psychological well-being, (d) techniques to cope with memory changes and (e) information about dementia. Six participants with early stage dementia completed the intervention that was co-delivered by lay and clinical professional tutors. Participants and tutors attended focus group and interviews at the end of the program to explore their perceptions of the intervention. These were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. Participants reported enjoyment and benefits from the intervention. This was despite some reporting concerns relating to their memory difficulties. The program's flexible nature, focus on strengths and the opportunity to spend time with other people living with dementia were particularly well received. Participants and tutors outlined areas for further improvement. The program was feasible and its flexible delivery appeared to facilitate participant benefit. Emphasis should be placed on maintaining activity and relationships, improving positive well-being and social interaction during the program. Memory of the pleasant experience and strengths focus was evidenced, which may impact positively on quality of life. The results highlight the usefulness and acceptability of self-management for people with early stage dementia and provide initial support for the program's structure and content.
Keywords: dementia; evaluation; qualitative research; self-management.
© The Author(s) 2013.