The iCST study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research's Health Technology Assessment Programme.
Over many years of working in the field of dementia care, I have met many carers who would like to make a difference. They want to improve the quality of life of the person they are caring for. They would like to reduce the long periods of inactivity that, sadly, are too common, and provide opportunities for engaging in meaningful and stimulating activities.
How can this be done?
It's not easy, of course, to have a lot of time free to engage in these activities but interestingly recent studies show that engaging in cognitive stimulation activities can help make a real, lasting difference in the quality of life of people with dementia. I have no doubt that carers who become involved in offering the programme described in this manual will take a small, but important step to achieving this goal.
It's simple and straight-forward
There is no special equipment that's required; carers don't need to have special qualifications or attend long training courses. All that's needed is to spend time with the person with dementia, in a quiet room, for 30 minutes, three times a week for 25 weeks. Although one person may take the leading role in working with the person with dementia, other people in the person's life, such as grandchildren or regular visitors can also be involved. All however must be prepared to follow the key principles of the approach which we know are essential for the programme to be useful.
The programme, as described here, has developed and evolved from the findings of a number of research studies carried out internationally over the years. People taking part in cognitive stimulation report increased quality of life, relative to those receiving usual care and they typically improve on tests of memory and other abilities. The effects appear to be in addition to those of any medication the person is receiving for dementia. Carers can be confident that this programme is based on the best evidence on what makes a difference for people with dementia.
Just as important, these activities can be great fun and enjoyable! It's great to be able to relax and laugh alongside the person you are caring for, to see the funny side of a situation together, to see beyond the dementia and enjoy real quality time together. It can be hard work sometimes, of course; but the experience so far has been that it's a very rewarding programme to be involved in. I hope that's your experience too!
- Bob Woods - Professor of Clinical Psychology of Older People at Bangor University