Intervention Study “Quality of life in elderly people with mental disabilities – maintenance and promotion of everyday competence” (2000-2003)
Chief research assistants: Stage I: Dipl.-Gerontol. Michaela Grüner
Stage II: Dr. med., Dipl.-Gerontol. Christina Ding-Greiner
Recent findings by international studies support the assumption that the capacity to learn and plasticity are also apparent in people with mental disabilities. The present study was designed as an empirical test of this assumption. Competence is described as a comprehensive construct which integrates aspects of independence, self-responsibility, self-determination and experienced meaning of life. Moreover, it also refers to the impact of the physical, social, and infrastructural environment on the aforementioned aspects. We proposed that independent living in older people with mental disabilities could be enhanced by a more differentiated perception and promotion of potentials by members of staff in health care institutions. An intervention program for caregivers was developed to initiate an examination of their own behaviour in daily interaction with mentally disabled residents, particularly in terms of any support of dependent behaviour.
40 mentally disabled residents and 40 members of staff participated in the present study. Video tapes were used to assess behaviour of staff and residents in daily care and support. In addition to this, a questionnaire was developed to assess other aspects of ageing, independence and everyday competence in mentally disabled residents.
Effects of the developed intervention program were tested with a pre-post-control group-design. Results show highly significant increases in residents’ independence and everyday competence. Therefore, our hypothesis that independent living in older people with intellectual disability could be enhanced by a more differentiated perception and promotion of existing potentials by the members of the institutional staff received strong support.