Absolutely. Although it would seem that a mutual support group program could not work with those with moderate to severe cognitive impairment, research has shown that using elements of the program in a more concrete way is very successful. Staff are able to use components of the program in multiple creative ways. Almost all participants in the study had some form of cognitive impairment and close to half had moderate to severe cognitive impairment. Even those with indicators of severe cognitive impairment revealed that they were comfortable in the groups even though their communication skills were limited. They were able to respond to concrete questions, engage with the music and remain attentive to the sharing as it went around the group. Even though some group members wandered in and out during the sessions, they were still able to actively participate.
The combination of the music, photography, using concrete questions and short readings/poetry in smaller groups makes this program an excellent addition to person-centered dementia care. Not only do the group participants enjoy the program, but the staff have rich resources to draw from for their daily programming. Elements of the program are used in small flexible groups that are carried out where the residents already are and also can be used with two-to-ones or one-to-ones. With staff assistance, the more social group participants can even participate in the mentorship aspect by reaching out and supporting one another with simple hugs and time spent together. Thus the staff model the mutual support and assist the group participants to spend time with those that are lonely and isolated. Some homes invite higher functioning residents from other neighbourhoods that are comfortable with those living with advance dementia, to mentor those in special/secured care.