Research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference today suggests that people with dementia may have positive as well as negative outlooks and attitudes as a result of their diagnosis. The research at the University of Kentucky used a newly-developed test, called the Silver Lining Questionnaire, to measure people’s positive behaviours and attitudes.
The study administered the test to 48 people with early-stage dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) – a condition that causes problems with memory and thinking that are not severe enough to be classed as dementia. The participants also answered questions from a standard questionnaire known as a Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) used to measure changes in behaviour and other symptoms of dementia, such as hallucinations, anxiety and agitation. The results showed that the participants scored more highly on the Silver Lining Questionnaire than they did on the NPI, with high scores when questioned about factors such as appreciation of life and strengthened relationships.
Dr Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“The results from this early-stage study suggest that there may be some positive aspects of a dementia diagnosis for some people in the early stages of the condition. Many people report that receiving a diagnosis allows them to make sense of the symptoms they have been experiencing, and it’s possible that this also played a part in some of the positive impacts described in this research. We also know that taking part in research can provide a sense of purpose for many people, and it would be helpful to know whether the people in this study found similar benefits from research involvement. Some of these findings echo Alzheimer’s Research UK’s research with family carers, many of whom reported stronger relationships with their loved ones, alongside negative experiences such as increased isolation and stress.
“It’s important to note that this study only looked at people with mild dementia symptoms and it’s likely that these results may change as symptoms progress. This was a small study, and it would be helpful to see further research in larger groups to understand what may be driving the positive feelings seen here. In the meantime, we must continue to invest in research if we are to improve the lives of people with dementia and provide hope for the future.”