Consider Non-Pharmacologic Approaches for Treating Symptoms of Dementia

Behavioral & Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD)

Many people think of dementia impacting cognitive impairment, like memory loss and attention, but dementia is not just memory loss.  However, there are behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) that occur in about 90 percent of dementia patients.  Moreover, these non-cognitive symptoms are equally important to the syndrome with respect to function and cognition.

BPSD symptoms can be very distressing for the person with dementia, their family and caretakers.

Some examples of these symptoms include:


  • Mood Disorders (aggression, depression, anxiety, and apathy)
  • Psychotic Episodes (delusions and hallucinations)
  • Abnormal Motor Behaviors (pacing, wandering, repetitive vocalization)
  • Inappropriate Behavior (agitation, disinhibition, screaming and elation).
  • Sleep and Appetite Changes

Implications of BPSD Symptoms

Symptoms of BPSD are significantly concerning because they put patients at higher risk for institutionalization, greater functional decline, and domestic abuse.  Until now, the preferred method for managing BPSD has been to prescribe medication.  However, that adds to the already hefty arsenal of drugs currently taken by most senior citizens and adds to the potential for dangerous side effects. Fortunately, there may just be a better way. 

Non-Pharmacological Treatments for BPSD

It is important to realize that there are many non-pharmacological treatments that may be helpful.  Furthermore, there is evidence that supports using these approaches despite the existence of inconsistent clinical research.

Notably, some examples of these treatments are:

  • Sensory Stimulation
  • Environmental Modification
  • Behavioral Therapy
  • Cognitive/Emotion-Oriented Approaches
  • Social Contact (real or simulated)
  • Caregiver Training/Development
  • Structured Activities
  • Clinically-Oriented Approaches
  • Individualized/Person-Centered Care
  • Clinical Decision Support Approaches

For further information, click this link for the Nursing Home Toolkit  Non-Pharmacological Approaches to Address Behaviors detailing the most up to date non-pharmacologic approaches for treating BPSD.

Also, take a look at:

Review of Non-pharmacologic Approaches for Treating Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Distress

Efficacious and Feasible Non-pharmacological Approaches for Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Distress

With so much new research, we owe it to our elderly dementia to consider medication as a measure of last resort.


For more information and assistance with treating dementia patients contact David York Agency at 718-376-7755.  Also, visit our website at