Background Many people who develop dementia are placed in long-term care facilities, as they often require high-level care that can no longer be provided by family and friends. As yet no cure for dementia exists and management of dementia-associated behaviours can be complex. Mental recall is one type of behaviour therapy whereby a representation of past experience is elicited. To date there has not been a systematic review conducted that focuses specifically on recall techniques for managing behaviours associated with dementia.
Aim To determine the effects of using recall strategies in managing behaviours associated with dementia.
Types of studies Any quantitative and qualitative study designs were considered.
Types of participants People aged over 60 years who had a clinical diagnosis of dementia and displayed behaviours associated with dementia.
Types of intervention Any behaviour therapy modality that used recall was considered for this review. For the purpose of this review memory or mental recall related to the ability to recall previously encountered items from memory.
Types of outcome measures The outcome of interest was a positive change in the behaviour associated with dementia.
Search strategy Using a collection of keywords and MeSH terms, a selection of electronic bibliographic databases were searched for both published and unpublished studies between the years 1990 and 2009. A three-step search strategy was utilised: firstly an initial limited search of MEDLINE and CINAHL was undertaken, followed by analysis of the text words contained in the title and abstract, and of the index terms used to describe the article. A second search using all identified keywords and index terms was then performed across all included databases. Thirdly, the reference list of all identified reports and articles were searched for additional studies.
Critical appraisal Papers selected for retrieval were assessed by two independent reviewers for methodological validity prior to inclusion in the review.
Data extraction and synthesis Data was extracted from papers included in the review using the appropriate standardised data extraction tool. Due to the heterogeneity of papers statistical pooling was not appropriate and the findings are summarised in narrative form.
Results Only three papers met inclusion criteria; one quasi-experimental and two case series.
Methodological quality was weak and caution is required when interpreting results. The quasi-experimental study focussed on teaching and supporting spousal caregivers of people with dementia to use a cueing system to modify the frequency of repetitive verbalisations. Results suggested that for those caregivers who followed the intervention as advised by the therapist, reductions in verbalisations were demonstrated compared to pre-intervention. There was however, a wide variation in the severity of the problem, with results showing a variable amount of change in vocalisations following the intervention. The results of the case series suggest that incorporating a behavioural approach that includes a cueing system with or without fading cues may be successful for some residents with dementia but not all.
Implications for practice Due to the strength of the results no conclusive recommendations can be made regarding the utilisation of cueing systems to change problem behaviours associated with dementia. There is weak evidence to suggest that recall approaches can be of benefit to some people with dementia who exhibit behaviours such as demanding and repetitive verbalisations and aggression. Issues regarding expertise in developing and delivering such interventions, as well as training and support of caregivers, both formal and informal, will need to be considered.
Implications for research Primary research utilising rigorous research methods that evaluate the effects of cueing systems to modify behaviours associated with dementia is imperative in order to recommend or refute such a behavioural approach. Other issues such as factors likely to affect a person's response to recall strategies and the optimal training methods for staff and informal caregivers of people with dementia, including strategies for encouragement and support should be considered.