• dementia;
  • engagement;
  • nursing home;
  • personal attribute;
  • characteristics;
  • apathy



To examine the impact of personal attributes on engagement in persons with dementia.


Participants were 193 residents of seven Maryland nursing homes. All participants had a diagnosis of dementia. Cognitive functioning was assessed via the Mini-Mental State Examination, and engagement was assessed via the Observational Measure of Engagement. Data pertaining to activities of daily living were obtained from the Minimum Data Set.


Women had longer mean engagement duration than men, and significant results were not seen with the other demographic variables. Significant, positive correlations were found between higher cognitive functioning and longer engagement duration, more attention, a more positive attitude, and a higher refusal rate. There was a positive and significant correlation between the comorbidity index and engagement duration, and between the number of medications and attention. All functional status variables yielded significance in a positive direction. Participants with poor hearing had a higher refusal rate. Cognitive status was the most consistent and potent predictor of engagement in this population.


Despite a higher refusal rate among those with higher cognitive levels, their overall engagement with stimuli is higher. Caregivers should anticipate higher refusal rates in those with poor hearing, and therefore compensatory methods should be used in presenting stimuli in this population. The potent role of cognitive and functional status on engagement of persons with dementia underscores the importance of tailoring activities to nursing home residents' needs, interests, and limitations. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.