Interventions to improve communication between people with dementia and nursing staff during daily nursing care: A systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

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Background: To provide adequate nursing care it is important for nursing staff to communicate effectively with people with dementia. Due to their limited communication skills, people with dementia have difficulties in understanding communication and expressing themselves verbally. Nursing staff members often report communication difficulties with people with dementia, which emphasises the urgent need for interventions to improve their communication with people in this specific target group.

Objectives: To provide an up-to-date overview of communication interventions that are applicable during daily nursing care activities, irrespective of care setting, and to describe the effects on communication outcomes in people with dementia and nursing staff.

Design: Systematic literature review

Data sources: The Cochrane Library, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Pubmed databases were searched for all articles published until the 23rd of February 2016.

Review methods: Papers were included, if: (1) interventions focused on communication between nursing staff and people with dementia and were applicable during daily nursing care; (2) studies were (randomised) controlled trials; (3) papers were written in English, Dutch, or German. Data were extracted on content and communication outcomes of interventions, and on methodological quality of the studies. The data extraction form and methodological quality checklist were based on the Method Guidelines for Systematic Reviews for the Cochrane Back Review Group.

Results: Six studies on communication interventions were included. All of the studies incorporated a communication skills training for nursing staff with a broad range in frequency, duration and content. In addition, there was wide variation in the communication outcome measures used. Four studies measured non-verbal communication, all found positive effects on at least some of the communication outcomes. Four studies measured verbal communication, of which three found positive effects on at least one of the measured outcomes. Methodological quality assessment demonstrated a high risk of bias in five of the six studies.

Conclusions: Few studies have been identified with wide variation in interventions and outcome measures. In addition, the methodological shortcomings make it difficult, to draw conclusions about the effectiveness. More research is needed to develop and evaluate communication interventions. Additionally, it is useful to reach consensus on defining and measuring communication. (C) 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-46
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • Communication
  • Dementia
  • Nursing staff
  • Daily nursing care
  • Intervention studies
  • Systematic review

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