Consider Non-Pharmacologic Approaches for Treating Symptoms of Dementia

Many people think of dementia impacting cognitive impairment, like  memory loss and attention, but dementia is not just memory loss.  There are behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) occur in about 90 percent of dementia patients.  The 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: 178086703

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

These symptoms are significant because they put patients at higher risk for institutionalization, greater functional decline, and domestic abuse.  To this point, 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 are many non-pharmacological treatments that may be helpful.  And despite receiving weak support from inconsistent clinical research, there is evidence supporting these approaches.  Some examples 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

Click the links below to see a Toolkit detailing the most up to date non-pharmacologic approaches for treating BPSD.

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.  And visit our website at