Increasing the availability of cognitive rehabilitation therapy to help people with early-stage dementia maintain their independence

Research project: Maintaining independence through goal-oriented cognitive rehabilitation: GREAT into Practice (GREAT-iP)

Lead investigator: Professor Linda Clare
Institution: University of Exeter
Grant type: Implementation Grant
Duration: 36 months
Amount: £399,99

What do we already know?

Cognitive rehabilitation is a type of therapy that can make managing everyday activities easier for people with early-stage dementia. Several studies have shown that it can help them to maintain their independence. 

Cognitive rehabilitation therapy is tailored to each individual person, and is done in their own homes. Over several sessions, a therapist works with the person with dementia and their carer to set personal goals. The therapist will help them to plan how to meet these goals, and will support them in doing so. 

The type of goal that is set depends on what the person wants to do. Some people wish to find ways of staying independent, for example by learning or re-learning how to use household appliances or mobile phones. Some may want to manage daily tasks better, and will work with therapists on developing strategies to prevent them burning their food when cooking meals or safely withdrawing money from a cashpoint.

Cognitive rehabilitation could be a valuable part of the care and home support offered to people who have been diagnosed with dementia. 

What does this project involve?

The researchers on this project have been running a trial, called the GREAT trial, to test whether cognitive rehabilitation can help people with dementia to achieve their goals. Alzheimer's Society funded an initial test of the study to make sure it was acceptable for people with dementia. A trial funded by the National Institutes of Health research was then set up, recruiting over 470 participants. The findings from this initial trial were very positive, showing that people with dementia were more able to achieve their goals in everyday tasks if they had received the therapy.

This implementation grant will work towards enabling NHS memory services and social care providers, such as home care or community reablement services, to offer cognitive rehabilitation for people affected by dementia. The project involves working with at least 15 NHS trusts and social care providers to achieve this. 

The researchers will work with the people involved to adapt cognitive rehabilitation therapy to real-life practice. They will provide informative and engaging training resources for staff and guidance for decision-makers. 

This project will support its partner organisations in incorporating cognitive rehabilitation into practice. People with dementia and their carers will be consulted to ensure this is done in a way which suits their needs and preferences.

The researchers will evaluate how each organisation is meeting its goals, and what the benefits for people with dementia and their carers have been. 

How will this benefit people with dementia?

The researchers expect that this project will result in at least 15 organisations offering cognitive rehabilitation. They also plan to provide a tried and tested strategy for making it more widely available throughout the UK. This will mean that more people with dementia can benefit from cognitive rehabilitation, making everyday tasks easier and helping them maintain their independence.