Capturing Interests: Therapeutic Recreation Activities for Persons with Dementia


  • Ann M. Kolanowski
  • Linda Buettner
  • Paul T. Costa, Jr.
  • Mark S. Litaker


Dementia, Personality, Intervention, NEO Personality Inventory


Behaviors such as screaming, wandering, and physical aggression occur in over 50% of persons
with dementia. Therapeutic recreation activities have demonstrated promise as interventions for
these dementia-related behaviors; however, few activities have wide appeal and caregivers
continue to express the need to find activities that keep persons with dementia engaged in
meaningful pursuits. This article describes a treatment theory for selecting activities that match
both skill level and personality style of interest, and a pilot study that tested the effectiveness of
these activities. Ten nursing home residents served as their own control in a crossover
experimental design in which they were assigned to treatment and control activities for 12
consecutive days, each in a random order. Treatment activities resulted in greater subject
engagement and more displays of positive affect. During treatment, there were fewer days when
dementia behaviors were exhibited than during control activities.





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