Emotional Expression of Persons with Dementia: An Integrative Review with Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

Kyung Hee Lee, Ji Yeon Lee, Marie Boltz, Eleanor S. McConnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: The ability to express emotion typically is preserved longer than language and cognitive function in persons living with dementia. Emotional expression may be an important indicator of underlying individual needs and feelings and may therefore facilitate person-centered care. Aims: This review aimed to examine how emotional expression has been described, measured, and utilized in empirical studies. Methods: The design of this study was an integrative literature review. A systematic search was conducted through electronic databases using defined search terms. Articles published up to March 2018 were included. The method proposed by Whittemore and Knafl was used for data synthesis and review integration. Quality appraisal of the selected articles was evaluated by the Mixed Methods Assessment Tool. Results: Most of the articles used feeling-related terms without specific definitions. Less frequently, terms such as affect, emotion, and mood were defined. Although these terms were used interchangeably in the articles, affect, which was defined as expressed emotion in general, was a comprehensive term to encompass other terms. Measurement of emotional expression was performed using observational methods, with direct observation or video recording using a hand-held camera. In both cases, observed emotion was coded with diverse methods or tools. In studies, the emotional expression was utilized as (a) an outcome to demonstrate the effect of interventions, (b) a factor to show relationship with other variables, or (c) an observed value itself. Linking Evidence to Action: This review provides insights about measurement options for emotional expressions among persons with dementia in long-term care. Long-term care staff should pay attention to emotional expression of persons with dementia to understand underlying unmet needs. Development of adequate measurement of emotional expression could facilitate development of emotion-oriented intervention program to improve psychological well-being and the behavioral and functional health of persons living with dementia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)344-351
Number of pages8
JournalWorldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Nursing


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