Clinician Article

Personally tailored activities for improving psychosocial outcomes for people with dementia in long-term care.

  • Mohler R
  • Renom A
  • Renom H
  • Meyer G
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Feb 13;2:CD009812. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009812.pub2. (Review)
PMID: 29438597
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  • Family Medicine (FM)/General Practice (GP)
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US)
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • Internal Medicine
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • FM/GP/Mental Health
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 4/7
  • Psychiatry
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 4/7
  • Geriatrics
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 3/7


BACKGROUND: People with dementia who are being cared for in long-term care settings are often not engaged in meaningful activities. Offering them activities which are tailored to their individual interests and preferences might improve their quality of life and reduce challenging behaviour.

OBJECTIVES: · To assess the effects of personally tailored activities on psychosocial outcomes for people with dementia living in long-term care facilities.· To describe the components of the interventions.· To describe conditions which enhance the effectiveness of personally tailored activities in this setting.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched ALOIS, the Cochrane Dementia and Cognitive Improvement Group's Specialized Register, on 16 June 2017 using the terms: personally tailored OR individualized OR individualised OR individual OR person-centred OR meaningful OR personhood OR involvement OR engagement OR engaging OR identity. We also performed additional searches in MEDLINE (Ovid SP), Embase (Ovid SP), PsycINFO (Ovid SP), CINAHL (EBSCOhost), Web of Science (ISI Web of Science), ClinicalTrials.gov, and the World Health Organization (WHO) ICTRP, to ensure that the search for the review was as up to date and as comprehensive as possible.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We included randomised controlled trials and controlled clinical trials offering personally tailored activities. All interventions included an assessment of the participants' present or past preferences for, or interests in, particular activities as a basis for an individual activity plan. Control groups received either usual care or an active control intervention.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently checked the articles for inclusion, extracted data and assessed the methodological quality of included studies. For all studies, we assessed the risk of selection bias, performance bias, attrition bias and detection bias. In case of missing information, we contacted the study authors.

MAIN RESULTS: We included eight studies with 957 participants. The mean age of participants in the studies ranged from 78 to 88 years and in seven studies the mean MMSE score was 12 or lower. Seven studies were randomised controlled trials (three individually randomised, parallel group studies, one individually randomised cross-over study and three cluster-randomised trials) and one study was a non-randomised clinical trial. Five studies included a control group receiving usual care, two studies an active control intervention (activities which were not personally tailored) and one study included both an active control and usual care. Personally tailored activities were mainly delivered directly to the participants; in one study the nursing staff were trained to deliver the activities. The selection of activities was based on different theoretical models but the activities did not vary substantially.We found low-quality evidence indicating that personally tailored activities may slightly improve challenging behaviour (standardised mean difference (SMD) -0.21, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.49 to 0.08; I² = 50%; 6 studies; 439 participants). We also found low-quality evidence from one study that was not included in the meta-analysis, indicating that personally tailored activities may make little or no difference to general restlessness, aggression, uncooperative behaviour, very negative and negative verbal behaviour (180 participants). There was very little evidence related to our other primary outcome of quality of life, which was assessed in only one study. From this study, we found that quality of life rated by proxies was slightly worse in the group receiving personally tailored activities (moderate-quality evidence, mean difference (MD) -1.93, 95% CI -3.63 to -0.23; 139 participants). Self-rated quality of life was only available for a small number of participants, and there was little or no difference between personally tailored activities and usual care on this outcome (low-quality evidence, MD 0.26, 95% CI -3.04 to 3.56; 42 participants). We found low-quality evidence that personally tailored activities may make little or no difference to negative affect (SMD -0.02, 95% CI -0.19 to 0.14; I² = 0%; 6 studies; 589 participants). We found very low quality evidence and are therefore very uncertain whether personally tailored activities have any effect on positive affect (SMD 0.88, 95% CI 0.43 to 1.32; I² = 80%; 6 studies; 498 participants); or mood (SMD -0.02, 95% CI -0.27 to 0.23; I² = 0%; 3 studies; 247 participants). We were not able to undertake a meta-analysis for engagement and the sleep-related outcomes. We found very low quality evidence and are therefore very uncertain whether personally tailored activities improve engagement or sleep-related outcomes (176 and 139 participants, respectively). Two studies that investigated the duration of the effects of personally tailored activities indicated that the intervention effects persisted only during the delivery of the activities. Two studies reported information about adverse effects and no adverse effects were observed.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Offering personally tailored activities to people with dementia in long-term care may slightly improve challenging behaviour. Evidence from one study suggested that it was probably associated with a slight reduction in the quality of life rated by proxies, but may have little or no effect on self-rated quality of life. We acknowledge concerns about the validity of proxy ratings of quality of life in severe dementia. Personally tailored activities may have little or no effect on negative affect and we are uncertain whether they improve positive affect or mood. There was no evidence that interventions were more likely to be effective if based on one specific theoretical model rather than another. Our findings leave us unable to make recommendations about specific activities or the frequency and duration of delivery. Further research should focus on methods for selecting appropriate and meaningful activities for people in different stages of dementia.

Clinical Comments

FM/GP/Mental Health

This is probably relevant in terms of the negative (almost) results.


The main usefulness of this article, which concluded that personally tailored activity for patients with severe dementia was of little to no benefit, will be to save the labour and expense of providing this in the care-setting. Clinically, it is of little interest.


This article would appeal to someone who is directly involved in the administrative end of a long term care facility. The nature of the intervention led the Cochrane reviewers to conclude that the evidence that behavioral interventions help reduce agitation is of low quality--these are not easy studies to conduct; and conclusions are not either/or types of conclusions. All in all, it's a minimally newsworthy article.


Improving psychosocial outcomes for individuals with dementia in long-term care facilities is a relevant topic for an aging population, but this meta-analysis of eight studies does not provide any meaningful findings that are useful for clinicians.

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