Comparing group-based interventions in older adults with subjective memory difficulties : a dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
The trend internationally and within New Zealand is of an increasing aging population, with numbers of those with dementia projected to increase rapidly. One way to address this issue is to consider the practical and clinical benefits of running memory intervention groups for older adults with memory difficulties/impairment. The current study intended to address some of the limitations found in memory intervention literature by (a) using a social control group as a control comparison, which has not been done before, and (b) separating out components of memory training interventions (i.e., memory strategies and lifestyle education). Therefore, the aim was to determine the extent to which receiving Memory intervention separately from a Lifestyle Education intervention would affect memory functioning in older adults with subjective memory difficulties, when compared with a social control condition. Participants for the intervention group were recruited from rest homes and retirement villages, while social control participants were community-dwelling older adults already taking part in weekly community group activities. A brief cognitive screen and subjective outcome measures were administered at baseline, post Phase 1, post Phase 2, and at six month follow-up. Quantitative and qualitative information from a total of 13 participants were analysed. Results from each of the outcome measures across the four time points indicated that there were no significant benefits of receiving Memory and/or Lifestyle Education interventions, when compared with a social control condition. However, a small sample size, non-equivalent groups, and lack of random assignment were some of the limitations which made it difficult to reach definite conclusions. Content analysis of qualitative information following intervention sessions provided some valuable considerations for running memory groups in future. In light of its limitations, the current study highlights practical considerations and recommendations for future research in this area. In particular, it identifies the value of conducting memory intervention research with older adults in residential care settings.