Behavioral/Mental Health Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

Social and Cognitive Stimulation for Individuals Living with Dementia: Cognitive Stimulation Therapy Could be the Answer

Written by Marissa Scofield, MSW Candidate, Brown School

People living with early-stage dementia are a part of a large and diverse community, dementia can affect anyone regardless of age, identity, or socioeconomic status. According to the CDC, 6.2 million people aged 65 and older are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease which is the most common form of dementia. Unfortunately, regardless of the high prevalence of the disease the opportunities for this community to engage socially and cognitively are often lacking. This lack of opportunity can lead to isolation, a decline in mood, and an overall low rating of quality of life. However, there are options out there that can provide a social outlet and improve quality of life.  

One of those opportunities is a therapy called Cognitive Stimulation Therapy or CST. As stated by Saint Louis University School of Medicine, CST is an evidence-based treatment for people with mild to moderate dementia. It is typically delivered weekly in group or individual settings and aims to “actively stimulate and engage people with dementia, while providing an optimal learning environment and social benefits.” CST sessions can be delivered in person or online and typically include activities that follow a set theme. Studies have shown that cognitive stimulation therapy can result in improvements in cognitive functioning, quality of life, language skills, and mood.

An organization called Memory Keepers in the St. Louis area currently offers Cognitive Stimulation Therapy through online group and individual sessions. From their own intake and follow up assessments such as the QOL-AD, SLUMS and Geriatric Depression Scale, they have found similar findings to Saint Louis University School of Medicine’s research. After two years of delivering these programs successfully, Memory Keepers is making this program for individuals with mild to moderate memory loss available to professionals through an easy-to-facilitate subscription-based program. The co-founders at Memory Keepers saw a need to provide professionals with their program to expand access to care. A major limitation to CST is the time needed to create the curriculum. Due to the nature of the program, CST requires extra time on top of delivering the program to create a curriculum for it. Due to this, there are currently not a lot of providers delivering the program. By providing their program and training to professionals, Memory Keepers is expanding access to care.

Programs like CST can provide people living with dementia an opportunity to engage cognitively and socially. Whether you are a professional, a caregiver for someone with dementia, or living with dementia yourself, Cognitive Stimulation Therapy could be the right fit for you.

To learn more about Memory Keepers visit their website or find them on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

The author of this blog post is a student in the course, Contemporary Perspectives on Aging, led by Nancy Morrow-Howell, PhD, the Bettie Bofinger Brown Distinguished Professor of Social Policy, at the Brown School and Director of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging at the Institute for Public Health. The course examines current issues of aging societies, from individual, family and community perspectives and uses a multidisciplinary lens to consider the biological, social, and psychological aspects of longer lives.