A practical memory training group for Older Adults

Coe, Á., Martin, M., & Stapleton, T. (2019). Effects of An Occupational Therapy Memory Strategy Education Group Intervention on Irish Older Adults’ Self-Management of Everyday Memory Difficulties. Occupational Therapy In Health Care, 1-27.

Introduction

Memory impairments are one of the most common things we think about as we age.  But, older adults have access to few evidence-based interventions to improve memory.  Most of our clients aren’t aware that memory problems are amenable to treatment, and providing them with supports can help them feel more hopeful, optimistic and proactive.

The Study

A group of Irish therapists and researchers developed a memory strategy education group (MSEG) several years ago.  Their description of the group:

The MSEG is a goal-focused program akin to a compensatory cognitive training approach. This program aims to assist individuals with memory impairment to retain skills and to deal with memory difficulties in their everyday life in a proactive, practical, and individualized manner.

The Intervention:

  • 6 x 1 hour sessions, delivered by two therapists

  • Small group sessions of 6-8 older adults (with caregivers)

  • Education components: internal and external memory strategies

  • Individualized components: personal goal setting (COPM) and matching strategies

  • Each session had an actionable component and homework to complete

  • See session by session outline at the bottom of this post (Table 1)

Results

  • Statistically significant improvements noted on Rivermead Behavioural Memory test II for clients with subjective memory complaints, and early dementia.

    • Improvements were not retained significantly by the early dementia group

  • Clinically significant improvements on the COPM, which were maintained at 3 months in all subgroups.

  • Meaningful improvement in QOL in all groups.

Limitations

  • Quasi-experimental (no randomization, mixed population)

  • No control group

Summary

The MSEG provides a practical outline for a 6 session intervention program that has the potential to help older adults improve subjective memory complaints.  

The intervention helps improve QOL and subjective functional performance and might also improve memory as assessed by a standard component measure (RBMT-II).  

Comparing the intervention with a control in a randomized study will be important to establish higher quality evidence - but the program template as it stands is useful for any OT working to improve memory issues.


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