Rehabilitation for people with dementia: a multi-method study examining knowledge and attitudes

Kate Laver, Maria Crotty, Lee-Fay Low, Lindy Clemson, Craig Whitehead, James McLoughlin, Kate Swaffer, Monica Cations

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People with dementia are not routinely offered rehabilitation services despite experiencing disability associated with the condition and accumulating evidence for therapies such as exercise, occupational therapy, and cognitive or physical rehabilitation. It is important to understand the needs and preferences of people with dementia regarding rehabilitation services. The aim of this study was to explore thoughts and beliefs about rehabilitation amongst people with dementia and their families.

Interviews with people with dementia and family members regarding their experience of care following diagnosis and their attitudes and beliefs about rehabilitation for dementia. Surveys with older people with cognitive impairment and/or a diagnosis of dementia to determine preferences for services and understanding of rehabilitation programs.

Interviews with 13 participants (n = 6 people living with dementia with mean age 60 and n = 7 care partners) revealed gaps in care post diagnosis. People reported having to seek out services and frequently sought out services which were rehabilitative in nature. Survey data (n = 91 participants, average age 82) showed that most people had heard of rehabilitation (92%) or had experience of rehabilitation (49%) at some point. There was a wide range of services identified as being beneficial. Rehabilitative interventions including case management, exercise and memory strategies were considered desirable.

People with dementia report having a wide variety of needs. There are gaps following diagnosis where people with dementia report having to seek out their own services. Some interview participants (who tended to be younger) clearly articulated the need for tailored interventions which maximised independence and quality of life. Survey participants, who were on average older, reported that they would participate in individually applicable rehabilitative therapies if they were available.
Original languageEnglish
Article number531
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2020


  • Rehabilitation
  • Dementia
  • Health services
  • Attitudes
  • Ageing


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