Cognitive Stimulation Therapy Programs

Written by Nicole Scheidl

January 6, 2017

This podcast is a short overview of cognitive stimulation therapy programming and the Interact Individual Program.

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Nicole Scheidl



Read the Transcript

Thanks so much for all your questions and feedback from my first podcast on the Coach Approach. It’s so great to see your passion for senior care. The Coach Approach is a great mindset to have when you are working with seniors, particularly seniors with dementia.

If you didn’t have a chance to listen to the previous podcast – make sure you check it out. It gives a great overview of what –  I think –  is the best approach for working with people who suffer from dementia.

The Need and the Opportunity

Before I get into the research around cognitive stimulation therapy I want to recap both the need and the opportunity for you. There are many individuals challenged by dementia. A little over ½ a million Canadians and 5 ½ million Americans are suffering from this disease. There are a lot of people who need help. And where there is a need, there is an opportunity to make a difference.

The care space is growing but there is no one dominant company. For example, in the United States there are over 300,000 homecare companies but the top four only generate 10% of the revenue. And the other markets around the world are equally fragmented.

So, there is lots of room for you and me to make a difference. While there is a lot of market noise, the Fit Minds programming can give you an edge. Providing a cognitive stimulation program can help you stand out from the crowd.

About Us

Now just in case you are wondering who I am, my name is Nicole Scheidl and I’m the CEO of Fit Minds. We have hundreds of program partners in Canada and the US. With almost 7 years of program development under our belts, we have a lot of experience for you to draw on. Our database has over 2500 pieces of content ready for you to use to generate an individualized cognitive stimulation program. This allows you to provide a very personalized program for the individual you are working with.

At Fit Minds, we believe in human-to-human interaction and that is why human beings deliver our programs – not computers.


In my previous podcast, I talked a little bit about the impact of our cognitive stimulation programs and now I want to dive into that a little deeper.

Cognitive stimulation may conjure up images of electrodes being attached to your brain or some other space age scientific Doctor Who episode. Wipe that picture from you mind, for it is a very human – to – human therapy.

Cognitive stimulation is one of the principal non-drug therapies for dementia. It consists of a series of exercises across different areas of cognition that stimulate the brain to work or exercise. Exercising the brain (like working any other muscle) strengthens and enhances its’ function.

In 2004 Dr Aimee Spector and Dr. Martin Orrell at the University College of London wanted to find out just what effect cognitive stimulation therapy actually had.  They ran the first large scale randomized controlled trial for cognitive stimulation therapy use in dementia cases. They randomly allocated 201 participants in 23 different centres and measured the results using the same scales used in dementia drug trials.

Their analysis suggested that for larger improvements in cognition, cognitive stimulation is equally as effective as several leading dementia drugs. As a bonus, cognitive stimulation led to significant improvements in quality of life as rated by the participants themselves.

Since that time, many more studies have been done on cognitive interventions for individuals suffering some form of dementia.

These studies have shown over and over again that cognitive interactions are an efficient method for delaying cognitive decline and improve quality of life.  If you want a quick overview of some of these studies, you can look up the literature reviews published in Nature magazine or in the Cochrane Review or check out our blog post: What is Cognitive Simulation Therapy and why does it work?

The Role of Cognitive Stimulation

Now I’m not saying that drugs should never be used in the treatment of dementia – but cognitive stimulation is an important additional support that can be offered to individuals and their families. And it can make a huge difference in their quality of life. It is interesting that in the United Kingdom, Guideline 42 of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence states that everyone who received a diagnosis of dementia should receive cognitive stimulation.

Think of it this way… if I say to you:  “I’m going to spend an hour with you three times a week and we are going to have a lot of fun together, we’ll laugh – we might even cry – but we’ll do it together,” and I say to your friend Betty: “Here’s a pill”… Who is going to say their quality of life is better? You are.

Around the world, clinicians have demonstrated the effectiveness of cognitive stimulation therapy. In Australia, Dr. Naismith used cognitive stimulation therapy as a preventative therapeutic technique and found that is was a viable, non-pharmacological early intervention strategy. This is a critical finding. Most seniors are taking many medications and adding another to the mix may be difficult. Cognitive stimulation can be added with no negative side effects.

In Japan, Dr. Yamaguchi found that cognitive stimulation has an important role in delaying disease progression and functional decline. Think about what an individual suffering from dementia and their family wants out of life. They want to delay the progress of the disease for as long as possible. Families feel so helpless when faced with a diagnosis of dementia. But cognitive stimulation can slow down the progress of the disease. You can give them that gift.

A Global Approach is Best

Now in all of the literature on cognitive stimulation interventions the key takeaway is: a global cognitive approach is best. That means an approach that exercises all your mental faculties.  Why is this so important? Just imagine if you had a memory problem and all I ever wanted to do was memory exercises with you. Eventually you would hate the sight of me.

As well, the global approach relies on the idea of cross-training. Just as the best athletes’ cross-train their muscles to achieve optimum fitness, cross-training your brain helps achieve maximum health.

That’s why in the Fit Minds programs you get a global cognitive stimulation workout that not only exercises five areas of cognition – Language and Music, Visual/Spatial Orientation, Memory, Critical Thinking and Computation but also builds relationships. And after all isn’t that why you are in this business? Someone who doesn’t value human connections doesn’t go into senior care.

The Interact Individual Database

Let me tell you a little bit more about our Interact Individual Database. Anyone who certifies as a Cognitive Coach can access this database. As a Fit Minds Coach, you create a client profile in the program and begin with a first assessment session. The first session sets benchmarks for the individual you are working with in Language, Visual/Spatial Orientation, Critical Thinking, and Computation. The program then creates a personalized session for your client based on their abilities in each area of cognition.

If your client has poor language abilities but excellent computation skills, they will receive a session with an easy-rated language activity and a more challenging computation activity. The range of activities in the database is significant and can accommodate most individuals. The idea is to challenge their abilities in a way that is not overly frustrating but is engaging.

When you complete the session, you input the session results back into the program. Then you create a new session based on the previous sessions results. The more you use the program, the greater its customization.

The program also tracks assessments and allows you to generate monthly reports for your clients’ families. Our focus has been to create a fantastic program that is easy to deliver. We get that you are busy, so the program is easy to use. As Kerry, one of our coaches in Alberta attests,

I feel pretty strongly about Cognitive Stimulation Therapy and your program makes it so easy to facilitate.

What It Takes

You may be wondering if you have to be a nurse to deliver cognitive stimulation? The short answer is: no.  The longer answer is a bit more nuanced. The most important factor is having the right personality – the ability to care and connect. Fit Minds has trained people from a variety of backgrounds.  Now, if you have a background in social work, occupational or speech therapy or you are a recreational therapist, you will find this program intuitive and it will fit nicely into your training. But even individuals without registered healthcare training can learn to provide cognitive stimulation.

In the next podcast I’m going to show you in a little more detail what a cognitive stimulation program could look like in your current work environment or how it might help you launch your very own business….a business where you can have BOTH success and significance.

Below this post let me know what your biggest question is about implementing a cognitive stimulation program or drop me an email. I’d love to hear from you.

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