Reminiscence is the systematic use of memories and recollections to strengthen self-identity and self-worth. The study aim was to investigate the consequences for nursing home residents and staff of integrating reminiscence into daily nursing care. In this randomised study, ten nursing homes were matched into two groups on the basis of location, type and size. In the period August 2006 - August 2007, staff in the Intervention Group were trained and supported in the use of reminiscence, involving individual and group sessions with residents as well as reminiscence boxes, posters and exhibitions. At baseline and again 6 and 12 months after the intervention start, data were collected on residents' cognitive level, agitated behaviour, general functioning and proxy-assessed quality of life, as well as on staff well-being and job satisfaction. Mixed linear modelling was used to analyse differences in outcome between the intervention and control groups. Project drop-out rates were 32% for residents and 38% for nursing staff. Most staff in the Intervention Group considered reminiscence a useful tool that improved their communication with residents, and that they would recommend to other nursing homes. There were no significant differences between residents in the Intervention and the Control Group in cognitive level, agitated behaviour or general functioning. Residents in the Intervention Group showed significant higher score at 6 months in quality of life subscale 'Response to surroundings', but there was no significant difference at 12 months. Positive effects of reminiscence were observed for all staff outcome measures, the only exception being SF-12 self-rated physical health. At 6 months after start of reminiscence, staff in the Intervention Group had significantly better scores than those in the Control Group for Personal accomplishment, Emotional exhaustion, Depersonalisation, 'Attitude towards individual contact with residents' and SF-12 self-rated mental health. At 12 months after start of reminiscence, staff in the Intervention Group had significantly better scores than those in the Control Group for Emotional exhaustion and 'Professional role and development'. The use of reminiscence appeared to have little long-term effect on the nursing home residents. Nursing staff in the Intervention Group experienced greater satisfaction with professional roles and developed a more positive view of the residents. International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number Register: ISRCTN90253170.
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