Elisabeth Wiken Telenius
Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Ageing and Health
Effects of an exercise program for nursing home patients with dementia
Norwegian ExtraFoundation for Health and Rehabilitation
The focus of the research study was physical function and mental health of nursing home residents with dementia. About 80% of nursing home residents suffer from dementia, which is a leading cause of functional loss and disability in older people. The study had three aims: Firstly, to describe quality of life and physical performance in nursing home residents with mild and moderate dementia. Secondly, to assess the reliability between pairs of observers independently rating the same object with three different physical function measures and thirdly, to investigate the immediate and long-term effects of a high intensity exercise program on different aspect of physical and mental functions in a population of nursing home residents with dementia. The three aims were explored with three different study designs; a cross-sectional study, a reliability study and a randomized controlled trial, respectively. The results have been reported on in four papers. The results indicate a statistically significant association between physical performance and quality of life in nursing home residents with dementia, and the reliability study demonstrated a high reliability between two different raters using the Berg Balance Scale, 30-seconds chair stand-test and 6 meter walking test to test the described population. The results from the randomized controlled trial EXDEM indicate that intensive physical exercise twice a week for 12 weeks can be efficient to improve physical function, and possibly mental health in nursing home residents with dementia. It was demonstrated that nursing home residents with dementia who performed high intensity strength and balance exercises improved their balance function immediately after intervention as the exercise group improved significantly more than the control group and there was still a significant difference between groups three months later. The results also indicate effect of exercise on apathy and agitation, but further studies are warranted to clarify this effect.