Research Activities, May 2013

Care processes in nursing home and residential long-term care settings may benefit people with dementia

Comparative Effectiveness Research

Pleasant sensory stimulation, such as calm music, may reduce agitation for people with dementia, according to a new research review from AHRQ’s Effective Health Care Program. The review compared characteristics and related outcomes of nursing homes and other residential long-term care settings for people with dementia. Although more research is necessary, some evidence suggests that protocols for individualized care, such as for showering and bathing, can reduce pain, discomfort, agitation, and aggression. Functional skill training may also improve physical function in basic activities of daily living. Overall, outcomes for people with dementia do not differ between nursing homes and residential care/assisted living settings. The exception is people needing medical care, who may benefit more from a nursing home setting.

More than 5 million Americans—as many as one in every eight individuals ages 65 years or older—have dementia. It is the most common reason for entry into long-term care settings. More research is needed to support decisionmaking on the care choices and questions faced by people with dementia and their families. 

You can access the review, Comparison of Characteristics of Nursing Homes and Other Residential Long-Term Care Settings for People With Dementia at

You can access other materials that explore the effectiveness and risks of treatment options for various conditions at AHRQ’s Effective Health Care Program Web site:

Page last reviewed May 2013
Page originally created May 2013
Internet Citation: Care processes in nursing home and residential long-term care settings may benefit people with dementia. Content last reviewed May 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.