George, D., Lokon, E., Li, Y., & Dellasega, C. (2021). “Opening Minds through Art”: Participation in a Nursing Home-Based Expressive Arts Program to Improve Medical Students’ Attitudes Towards Persons Living with Dementia. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
While medical student attitudes towards older adults have been shown to decline during training, educators have found value in facilitating arts-based activities that foster meaningful engagement with PLWD in nursing home settings. This study evaluated whether first- and second-year students who partnered with nursing home residents living with dementia through an expressive arts program (Opening Minds through Art, OMA), could develop more positive attitudes toward older adults. The authors administered the Dementia Attitudes Scale (DAS), Allophilia Scale, and the UCLA Geriatric Attitudes Scale (UCLA-GAS) to 33 students who participated in OMA and 19 students in a control group in order to evaluate mean change in their self-reported attitudes towards persons with dementia. The authors used paired t-tests or Wilcoxon Signed-rank tests to analyze comparative pre- and post-program scores on the individual items of the DAS, Allophilia Scale, and UCLA-GAS, on sub-domains, and on the overall scale. They used Cronbach’s alpha to evaluate the internal consistency and reliability. OMA students’ scores showed significantly larger pre-post attitudinal improvement than did control group students on DAS Comfort factor score, DAS Overall score, and all Allophilia factor (i.e., Affection, Comfort & Kinship, and Engagement & Enthusiasm) and Overall scores. DAS and Allophilia factors and overall scales showed high internal consistency reliabilities using both pre- and post-data, with Cronbach’s α values ranging from 0.80 to 0.95. The GAS scale, on the other hand, showed relatively lower reliabilities using pre-data (Cronbach’s α=0.59) and moderate reliability using post-data (Cronbach’s α=0.75).The authors’ findings provide evidence that participation in an expressive arts program at a nursing home improves medical students’ attitudes towards persons with dementia.