Museum activities in dementia care: Using visual analog scales to measure subjective wellbeing

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Previous research has shown that people with dementia and caregivers derive wellbeing-related benefits from viewing art in a group, and that facilitated museum object handling is effective in increasing subjective wellbeing for people with a range of health conditions. The present study quantitatively compared the impact of two museum-based activities and a social activity on the subjective wellbeing of people with dementia and their caregivers.


A quasi-experimental crossover design was used. People with early to middle stage dementia and caregivers (N = 66) participated in museum object handling, a refreshment break, and art viewing in small groups. Visual analog scales were used to rate subjective wellbeing pre and post each activity.


Mixed-design analysis of variances indicated wellbeing significantly increased during the session, irrespective of the order in which the activities were presented. Wellbeing significantly increased from object handling and art viewing for those with dementia and caregivers across pooled orders, but did not in the social activity of a refreshment break. An end-of-intervention questionnaire indicated that experiences of the session were positive.


Results provide a rationale for considering museum activities as part of a broader psychosocial, relational approach to dementia care and support the use of easy to administer visual analog scales as a quantitative outcome measure. Further partnership working is also supported between museums and healthcare professionals in the development of nonclinical, community-based programs for this population.

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