This review of the literature supports the Creative Practice suite of films. It was  developed by Lindsay Flannigan, Alzheimer Scotland occupational therapy intern with additional sections contributed by Alzheimer Scotland. The literature included is not exhaustive but does detail evidence shown in each of the six Creative Practice films.

The literature will be of interest to practitioners in a range of settings, working with people with dementia at different stages of the condition.  Families and carers of people with dementia will also benefit through support to use the interventions at home, where appropriate.

Jan Beattie
Deputy Director of Workflorce DevelopmentQuality and Workforce Development

Elaine Hunter
National AHP Consultant
Public Policy

The benefits of access to therapeutic activity for people with dementia are widely discussed within occupational therapy and mental health literature. Chandani and Hill (1990) state that a person’s ability to adapt and cope with stress and change is directly linked to their participation in meaningful activity. The authors further explain that it is essential to ensure that activity is researched and adapted for each individual person when it is used as a therapeutic tool to ensure that it is truly meaningful; there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to therapeutic interventions (Chandani and Hill 1990).

Perrin et al (2008) explain that it is the duty of staff working with people with dementia to ensure that all therapeutic decisions and goals are made with the person at the heart of the process. In addition, Perrin et al (2008) state that it essential to be mindful that if a therapeutic intervention is found to work well for a group of people with dementia, this does not mean it will work well for all people with dementia. The Oxford English Dictionary (2006, p727) defines the word ‘therapeutic’ as: “having a good effect on the body or mind”. Considering this definition, along with Kielhofner and Forsyth’s (2008) explanation that it is essential for health and care professionals to consider if and how an activity will benefit a person prior to introducing it, it can be argued that an intervention only becomes therapeutic if it has a positive effect on the individual mentally, psychologically or physically.

With these points in mind, a detailed literature search was completed with the aim of identifying key pieces of research that investigate the therapeutic benefits of a number of activities for people with dementia. To ensure a broad spectrum of literature was accessed, searches were performed within the following databases: CINAHL Plus, Proquest Health and Medical Collection and Sage Journals: British Journal of Occupational Therapy. Keywords and phrases search included: ‘dementia’, ‘Alzheimer’s’, ‘Alzheimer’s disease’, ‘well being’ and ‘therapeutic intervention’. Based on discussion around the goal and purpose of the literature review with Alzheimer Scotland staff, the activity-based keywords searched were: ‘yoga’, ‘tai-chi’, ‘exercise’ ‘reminiscence’ and ‘cognitive stimulation therapy’. The returned search items were then filtered in order to extract the most relevant and current work available using the following limiters: published after 2007, peer reviewed only and English language only.

This document will describe and discuss the key pieces of literature obtained from the literature searches and the relevance of each to the well-being of people with dementia under the following headings: Tai-Chi, Yoga and Exercise, Cognitive Stimulation Therapy and Reminiscence.

A review was previously commissioned by Alzheimer Scotland* (Pentland 2015)  researching a range of therapeutic interventions for people with dementia. The review included the areas of sensory stimulation and horticulture therapies and  gardening  and the key finding of these two therapies are  integrated into this report.  

*The full report of the 215 papers reviewed  can be found here 

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