Environmental stimulation decreases apathy levels in dementia residents

Nursing homes with strong environmental stimulation are more likely to decrease the apathy levels among their residents with dementia, researchers have found.

About 90% of residents with dementia experience apathy, and are not motivated to engage in everyday activities or socialize with other residents, Ying-Ling Jaw, RN, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing at Penn State said. Engagement is crucial, however, because dementia has shown to decline quicker in those who are apathetic.

In Jao's study, published in The Gerontologist, 40 nursing home residents with dementia were observed via video while having a meal, directly interacting with staff members, or doing random activities. Jao watched and focused on the environmental characteristics around the residents, including stimulation, ambiance, crowding, staff familiarity and lights and sounds.

After analyzing, Jao concluded that environments with a clear and strong stimulus is linked to lower apathy. In contrast, environments without stimulation or that are overwhelming to the resident shows higher apathy.

Nearly half of all residents in nursing homes have dementia, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, and apathy, or lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern, is one of the most common neurobehavioral symptoms of the disease.