Dementia affects one in four Canadians aged 85 and over. It involves reasoning, judgement, and memory, and as a progressive condition, it worsens over time. For older adults with dementia, depression, anxiety, and agitation can arise due to difficulty learning new things, making decisions, loss of independence, and inability to complete daily activities. This can have implications for an individual’s quality of life. For caregivers and care professionals, finding opportunities to maintain or improve the quality of life of people with this condition is a priority.
To improve cognitive function and mental health in older adults living with dementia, several research-based strategies may help. Non-drug options include visual art therapy, massage therapy, and computerized cognitive training (a set of standardized tasks on computers or mobile devices intended to 'exercise the brain' in various ways). Preliminary research shows that for older adults with dementia who live in long-term care homes, engaging in meaningful activities outside of care home settings can improve their psychological well-being.
Research evidence has also shown that people with dementia can learn and retain new information when presented in a way they understand. People with dementia shouldn’t be excluded from conversations and decision-making about their health. They should have a say in personal-care discussions and express their needs and wishes. This involvement can help improve their health outcomes and quality of life.
For more information on strategies that can benefit people living with dementia, read through our resources below.