Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is an evidence-based treatment for people with mild to moderate dementia. CST was designed in England by Dr. Aimee Spector and several dementia experts following extensive evaluation of research evidence.
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HOW CST WORKS
Group CST treatment involves 14 or more sessions of themed activities, which typically run twice weekly. Sessions aim to actively stimulate and engage people with dementia, while providing an optimal learning environment and the social benefits of a group.
Each session follows a general theme, with choices of activities in order to cater to the interests of the group. Members give the group a name. Consistency is created between sessions through using the same warm-up activity, a reality orientation (RO) board (containing information about the group) and having a 'theme song'. Although CST was designed for brief treatment, research is showing that people who continue with CST can continue to improve or at least maintain improvements for a longer period of time.
CST treatment can be administered by trained health care professionals working with people with dementia, such as SocialWorkers, Occupational Therapists, Speech Language Pathologists, and Registered Nurses. Anyone that has experience working with people with dementia can be trained to facilitate CST groups. CST groups can take place in settings such as residential homes, hospitals or day centers.
Research shows that CST leads to significant benefits in people's cognitive functioning, as measured by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), and the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale ADAS-COG. These tests primarily investigate memory and orientation, but also language and visuospatial abilities. Because these outcome measures are used in the dementia drug trials, direct comparisons could be made. Analysis suggests CST is equally effective as several dementia drugs.
Further research showed that CST made a significant impact on language skills including naming, word-finding and comprehension. CST has led to significant improvements in quality of life, as rated by the participants themselves using the QoL-AD. Research also shows that the caregivers of these individuals with dementia also reported an improved quality of life. Results from interviews with CST participants and their caregivers about their experiences of CST sessions found key themes including positive experiences of being in the groups, due to a supportive and non-threatening environment; and improvements in mood, confidence, and concentration.