Efficacy of a cognitive stimulation therapy programme for people with dementia

Ir J Psychol Med. 2011 Sep;28(3):145-147. doi: 10.1017/S0790966700012131.


Objectives: Cognitive stimulation therapy (CST) has been shown to produce improvements in cognition and quality of life which compare favourably with trials of cholinesterase inhibitors. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the efficacy of CST, replicating the methods of Spector et al in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2003 in a smaller sample using a control group engaged in routine activities.

Methods: Eligible participants (mild to moderate dementia; MMSE range 10-23) were randomised to CST group or control conditions. Pre- and post-intervention testing was undertaken by assessors who were blind to condition. Measures included MMSE, CDR (sum of boxes), ADAS-cog, RAID (anxiety), abbreviated GDS (depression), QoL-AD, and the CAPE Behaviour Rating Scale (BRS). Analysis was by non-parametric statistics. Occupational therapists facilitated two sessions per week for seven weeks in two long-term care facilities and the same programme was run by the activity co-ordinator in a nursing home unit.

Results: Fourteen CST and 13 control participants completed the study. Between group difference scores analysis showed that the CST group improved compared to controls on MMSE (Mann-Whitney U = 32, p = 0.013) and on the QoL-AD which just fell short of significant (U=51.5, p = 0.055). Qualitatively, therapists noted that CST participants demonstrated good interaction and enthusiasm in the group environment, with continuity and carryover between sessions.

Conclusions: Even though the sample sizes are small the current study is consistent with the Spector et al's findings in 2003 of beneficial effects in people with dementia following CST. The programme is recommended as an intervention for people with mild to moderate dementia.