Could stimulation play a role in dementia care?

June 22, 2015 | Aged Care Management

Tackling dementia will require a number of approaches.

Dementia continues to rank as one of the most pressing health care issues in Australia, and especially so in our aged care system.

Unlike many other conditions, dementia impacts a substantial number of people. A massive 52 per cent of residents recorded a diagnosis of dementia in 2011, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. What's more, 342,800 Australians currently live with the condition.

As a result, both aged care and the wider health care sector will require an appropriate way of managing the condition over the next few years.

Public research university Penn State could have the answer – in the form of stimulation.

New research has found that nursing-home residents with the condition are less likely to be apathetic if they're able to live in a stimulating environment. But what does this mean?

"Persons with dementia who are also apathetic won't be curious about the world around them; they are not motivated to carry out activity nor engage with those around them, in either a positive or a negative way," explained Ying-Ling Jao, an assistant professor of nursing at the university.

Ying-Ling went on to explain how apathy has a number of negative consequences for all involved – whether that's the carers or patients. Individuals are more likely to see declining cognitive function, depression and care difficulties if apathy is involved.

In terms of the stimulus that can prove useful, a music therapy program was to be a suitable option for residents, with a therapist leading the program in a room without background noise.

Ying-Ling finished by noting the importance of this research, and saying that it will help to guide researchers in "designing appropriate physical and social environments for dementia care." 

Dementia care strategies will need to be another task added to the mounting number of issues aged care providers need to tackle over the next few years – including appropriate financial strategies.