Dementia Research

‘Cognitive Rehabilitation in Early Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment: Is it helpful?’

La Trobe University, Vic.
Awarded 2015
Co-funded by the Rotary Club of Strathmore
Bartolina Peluso Research Companion

“A cognitive rehabilitation approach utilises individualised strategies to assist clients and their supporters to address their goals to improve function in day-to-day life.”

Researcher Profile

Dr Regan (nee Ryburn) is a Clinical Neuropsychologist with over 15 years’ experience in a range of settings including neurological rehabilitation, aged mental health and cognitive, dementia and memory clinics. She currently has a private practice in neuropsychological services.

As a clinical researcher, she has experience with the development and evaluation of services for people with neuropsychological difficulties. She has a track record in successful grant applications and peer reviewed publications with a focus on aged care program development, including new information resources and interventions. She has a special interest in cognitive rehabilitation for people with mild cognitive impairment and early dementia.

Project Summary

A cognitive rehabilitation approach utilises individualised strategies to assist clients and their supporters to address their goals to improve function in day-to-day life. This may include either the adoption of aids such as diary or smart phone or the use of mental techniques (e.g., face-name associations). This PhD aims to investigate the potential for interventions using a cognitive rehabilitation approach to improve quality of life and independence of clients with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and early dementia.   Individuals with MCI and early dementia face difficult challenges, including reduced confidence and increased reliance on family members, with subtle changes in their capacity to undertake more difficult day-to-day tasks (e.g., managing their finances). These subtle changes place them at increased risk of developing mental health problems such as depression or anxiety as well as interpersonal difficulties and in some cases increased social isolation. Successful adjustment and adoption of strategies to manage cognitive issues for this group may be of critical importance for quality of life and may also help to prevent or delay further cognitive decline, resulting in significant cost savings for health service providers.

Specifically, in this PhD a set of information handouts will be trialled on a pilot group and then a face-to-face intervention for clients and their close supporters will be developed. Careful analysis of the outcomes from the interventions will be undertaken in a range of ways including through questionnaires and interviews. The findings will be discussed in the context of existing research findings and the current health care system and the potential to develop new cognitive rehabilitation services.

Supervisors: Professor Yvonne Wells, Paul O’Halloran & Professor Barbara Workman

How will this research help people?

This research will help to explore the potential for cognitive rehabilitation approaches, in particular, to help people with mild cognitive impairment and early dementia function better in their day-to-day lives.

Arguments are now emerging that the best time to intervene and provide services for dementia may be well before the emergence of clinically diagnosable dementia, in the ‘preclinical’ phase, to try to delay or modify the course of the illness. Effective interventions at a preclinical or early stage have potential to increase the duration of independence, improve quality of life and save healthcare costs.   Economic modelling has demonstrated that even small improvements or delays in decline in function may create substantial cost savings.