Supporting the couple relationship following dementia diagnosis: A scoping review
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There is now a significant body of research demonstrating the importance of supporting the couple's relationship for people living with dementia. Maintaining a strong relationship has been demonstrated to slow cognitive decline in dementia, reduce the caregiver's sense of burden and may delay the need for transfer into residential care. However, the potential for healthcare practitioners to deliver interventions to support the couple's relationship in the community remains largely unexplored. This scoping review aimed to locate interventions that support couples to maintain their relationship satisfaction when living with dementia. This review mapped studies across a broad range of disciplines and research methods, following the Joanna Brigg's Institute (JBI) framework. Following screening, 44 studies were identified. The approach of these programmes can be broadly grouped into three categories; Adaptation and use of shared activities to enhance the couple's relationship; Developing caregiver skills and reducing perceived burden to improve interaction and relationship quality; Connecting and strengthening the couple's relationship through sharing feelings and memories. Further research is required to explore the possibility and appropriateness of adaptation of these interventions for use by community healthcare practitioners. There is a need to identify interventions that can meet the needs of couples as dementia progresses into the moderate-severe stages. Heterogeneity and inconsistency in outcomes measurement for the couple's relationship, suggests the need to consider further how outcomes for couple's relationship quality may best be captured. It is also suggested that other existing programmes, outside of the scoping review results, but aimed at reducing dementia caregiver burden may have currently unexplored and developed outcomes for couple's relationship quality.
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