The feasibility of volunteers facilitating personalized activities for nursing home residents with dementia and agitation

Eva Simone van der Ploeg, Helen I Walker, Daniel William O'Connor

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20 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Nursing home residents' behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia are often exacerbated by a lack of social contact and meaningful activity. Volunteers might assist in addressing this deficiency but they are often discouraged by staff from engaging with residents with challenging behaviors. As a result, some of the neediest residents receive the least social and psychological support.

AIM: This project explored the implementation of personalized, one-to-one activities by nursing home volunteers to determine if volunteers were able and willing to complete a training program and undertake activities with residents with dementia and challenging behaviors.

METHODS: 19 nursing home volunteers in Melbourne, Australia, were trained to apply Montessori-type personalized activities with a selected resident whose dementia was complicated by a frequent, non-aggressive agitated behavior. The volunteers were asked to attend a workshop and pay six 30-min visits to the resident over a three week period. They completed knowledge and attitude rating scales before and after the intervention and were interviewed afterward regarding their experiences and perceptions.

RESULTS: 16 volunteers completed the program and eight met or exceeded every study requirement. Most of them derived satisfaction from engaging residents' interest and were pleased to learn new skills. The scores on the dementia knowledge and attitude rating scale of those who completed the visits were higher at the study's outset than the scores of those who failed to make any visits.

CONCLUSIONS: It is certainly feasible to train volunteers to work with residents who might otherwise be isolated. It is important to demonstrate activities to volunteers at the outset and to provide them with careful, ongoing supervision and support. Notwithstanding some difficulties and challenges, volunteers represent a growing and hitherto untapped pool of support for people with dementia and complex needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-146
Number of pages5
JournalGeriatric Nursing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014


  • Activities
  • Agitation
  • Dementia
  • Nursing homes
  • Volunteers

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