Realist Synthesis and on involvement methods and people with dementia

Background: Medication-related adverse events have been estimated to be responsible for 5700 deaths and cost the UK £750 million annually. This burden falls disproportionately on older people. Outcomes from interventions to optimise medication management are caused by multiple context-sensitive mechanisms. The MEdication Management in Older people: REalist Approaches BAsed on Literature and Evaluation (MEMORABLE) project uses realist synthesis to understand how, why, for whom and in what context interventions, to improve medication management in older people on complex medication regimes residing in the community, work.

Method: This realist synthesis uses secondary data and primary data from interviews to develop the programme theory. A realist logic of analysis will synthesise data both within and across the two data sources to inform the design of a complex intervention(s) to help improve medication management in older people.

  1. 1.

    Literature review

    The review (using realist synthesis) contains five stages to develop an initial programme theory to understand why processes are more or less successful and under which situations: focussing of the research question; developing the initial programme theory; developing the search strategy; selection and appraisal based on relevance and rigour; and data analysis/synthesis to develop and refine the programme theory and context, intervention and mechanism configurations.

  2. 2.

    Realist interviews

    Realist interviews will explore and refine our understanding of the programme theory developed from the realist synthesis. Up to 30 older people and their informal carers (15 older people with multi-morbidity, 10 informal carers and 5 older people with dementia), and 20 care staff will be interviewed.

  3. 3.

    Developing framework for the intervention(s)

    Data from the realist synthesis and interviews will be used to refine the programme theory for the intervention(s) to identify: the mechanisms that need to be ‘triggered’, and the contexts related to these mechanisms. Intervention strategies that change the contexts so the mechanisms are triggered to produce desired outcomes will be developed. Feedback on these strategies will be obtained.


Discussion: This realist synthesis aims to develop a framework (underpinned by our programme theory) for a novel multi-disciplinary, multi-agency intervention(s), to improve medication management in community-dwelling older people on complex medication regimens.