A new study has found that the amount of agitation experienced by residents of care homes who have dementia has an important impact on their quality of life.
At least forty percent of people living with dementia experience significant symptoms of agitation. These include restlessness, pacing, shouting, and verbal or even physical aggression. People with dementia who display such behavior are more likely to move to a care home. The study, the largest of its type ever conducted, explored how agitation affects the quality of life of this growing population of people.
Researchers interviewed more than 1400 residents with dementia and staff caregivers in 92 care homes in England. They also talked to next-of-kin and staff looking after the residents. The goal was to understand staff coping style and to monitor resident’s quality of life and agitation over a period of 16 months.
Caring for people living with dementia can be challenging. So much so that caregivers may sometimes resort to coping strategies that are dysfunctional and possibly harmful, such as avoidance or venting their frustration. It’s reasonable to think, then, that poor coping by those providing care might be linked to the quality of life or agitation of those receiving care.
But the study did not find this to be the case.
Higher levels of agitation among residents predicted lower quality of life. This finding, however, wasn’t linked to the severity of dementia. That suggested that other factors, such as care approaches, are important.
But measures of coping used in the study didn’t explain the relationship between agitation and life quality either.
The finding could be chalked up to how difficult it is to pinpoint the true source of stress in the workplace, where staff may be asked to balance many different needs at once. Staff could feel torn between wanting to deliver their preferred style of care and having to abide by policy set by upper management.
While the connection between dementia and life quality remains unclear, what is clear is that agitation is a complex condition with a discernible bearing on quality of life. The situation calls for effective and scalable solutions for reducing agitation in care homes. To that end, the research team is currently evaluating a care team intervention they hope will improve the quality of life of residents living with dementia.