For those who have dementia, aggression and agitation can be a daily struggle. But new research shows how unconventional therapies can go a long way in helping soothe these emotions in dementia patients.
Non-drug therapies such as massage, touch therapy, and outdoor activities have been shown to help dementia patients who may be feeling aggression and agitation. In a reanalysis of more than 163 studies involving nearly 25,000 patients, Canadian researchers found surprising results about the non-drug therapies. Multidisciplinary care including massaging patients and using touch therapy and music were more effective than the usual care that dementia patients were given.
“Our results suggest that multidisciplinary care and non-medication therapy should be prioritized in treating our patient population and this should be incorporated into evidence-based guidelines,” said lead study author Dr. Jennifer Watt, a geriatrician and scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute within Unity Health Toronto.
A Team of Specialists
During these non-drug therapies, a team of specialists worked with patients and caregivers to deliver expert advice and guidance. This team may include nurses trained in geriatrics, physicians who can look at medical causes for certain behaviors and prescribe medication, and an occupational therapist who can help adapt a patient’s routine and environment to avoid frustration.
Some dementia patients become agitated when they can’t remember how to perform daily activities, or they can be triggered if they don’t recognize the person caring for them. Whatever the reason for the agitation, non-pharmacological treatments have been shown to help calm patients down better than drugs.
The antipsychotic drugs that are often prescribed to treat the behavioral symptoms come with many side-effects including high blood pressure, dizziness, constipation, and headache. These concerning side-effects can even include an increased risk of stroke and death.
Studies such as this are crucial for helping health care professionals to understand the importance of trying non-drug related therapies as a type of treatment first before using pharmacological solutions as a last resort. Traditional non-drug therapies, such as reality orientation and behavioral therapy, are already being used in tandem with exciting new treatments to deliver the best dementia care to Alzheimer’s patients.