International Psychogeriatrics


Subjective needs of people with dementia: a review of the literature

Henriëtte G. van der Roest a1c1, Franka J. M. Meiland a1, Raffaella Maroccini a1, Hannie C. Comijs a1, Cees Jonker a1 and Rose-Marie Dröes a1
a1 Department of Psychiatry/Alzheimer Center, VU Medical Center/GGZ Buitenamstel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Article author query
van der roest hg   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
meiland fj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
maroccini r   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
comijs hc   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
jonker c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
droes r   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Objective: Insight into the individual care needs of the growing number of people with dementia is necessary to deliver more customized care. Our study aims to provide an overview of the literature on the subjective needs of people with dementia.

Method: Electronic databases were searched for publications on subjective needs between January 1985 and July 2005, and reference lists were cross-referenced. Extracts of needs were classified within problem areas of the (Dutch) National Dementia Program and quality of life domains, and the extracts were classified as a “need” (an implicitly communicated felt state of deprivation), “want” (expression of a need) or “demand” (suitable solution to fulfill a need).

Results: Subjective needs were found in 34 studies with various research aims, such as awareness and coping. Few studies aimed to measure needs of people with dementia. The most frequently reported needs of people with dementia were the need to be accepted and respected as they are, the need to find adequate strategies to cope with disabilities, and the need to come to terms with their situation. Explicit wants or demands were reported less frequently than needs.

Conclusion: The high number of reported needs and the limited number of wants and demands show that people with dementia do not frequently mention how they want their needs to be met. Most reported needs are not instrumental, but are related to well-being and coping. Further research to inventory these needs could help achieve more demand-directed and better attuned care in the future.

(Received August 14 2006)
(revision requested October 3 2006)
(revised version received October 23 2006)
(Accepted October 25 2006)
(Published Online January 4 2007)

Key Words: dementia; review; subjective needs; quality of life; living in the community.

c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Ms. Henriëtte van der Roest, Department of Psychiatry, VU Medical Center, Valeriusplein 9, 1075 BG Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Tel: +31 (0)20 7885 665; Fax: +31 (0)20 7885 549. Email: