Cognitive stimulation is an intervention for people with dementia which offers a range of enjoyable activities providing general stimulation for thinking, concentration and memory usually in a social setting, such as a small group. Its roots can be traced back to Reality Orientation (RO), which was developed in the late 1950s as a response to confusion and disorientation in older patients in hospital units in the USA. RO emphasised the engagement of nursing assistants in a hopeful, therapeutic process but became associated with a rigid, confrontational approach to people with dementia, leading to its use becoming less and less common.
Cognitive stimulation is often discussed in normal ageing as well as in dementia. This reflects a general view that lack of cognitive activity hastens cognitive decline. With people with dementia, cognitive stimulation attempts to make use of the positive aspects of RO whilst ensuring that the stimulation is implemented in a sensitive, respectful and person-centred manner.
There is often little consistency in the application and availability of psychological therapies in dementia services, so a systematic review of the available evidence regarding cognitive stimulation is important in order to identify its effectiveness and to place practice recommendations on a sound evidence base.