Non-pharmacological treatment

Unique individuals

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment

Research shows that each individual has unique reasons for the behaviours they display, so there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment. Effective treatment(s) involve trial and error along with ongoing re-assessment in order to tailor the intervention to the individual’s needs.

Non-pharmacological treatment options may include:

  • Music
  • Movement (dance)
  • Massage therapy
  • Multi-sensory rooms
  • Simulated presence
    • Video or audio recording of family members talking to help calm the person
  • Aromatherapy
  • Token economy (a reward system to reinforce wanted behaviours)
  • Exercise
  • Relaxation
  • Activities (arts and crafts, occupational therapy etc.)
  • Montessori methods (patient-centered teaching techniques)
  • ABC method

Whether a person with dementia is living in the community or in a nursing home, it takes a team to develop a plan for working with the individual. Ensuring that everyone on the team buys into, understands and agrees on the plan is the key to its success.

Working together means everyone on the team is doing things in a similar way – sticking to the plan and keeping notes – in order to ensure consistent treatment that improves quality of life.

A caregiver team can include:

  • Family members (spouse, daughter, son, sister, brother)
  • Friends
  • Informal, paid caregivers
  • Personal support workers (community or nursing home)
  • Nurses
  • Physicians (community or nursing home)
  • Dining room staff (nursing home)
  • Healthcare aids (community or nursing home)
  • Dietary staff (nursing home)

Consistency in treatment by every team member can reduce certain behaviours. If an individual is calling out, for example, and everyone uses the same method for dealing with the calling out, the individual receives the same message, which can defuse the behaviour – whereas if everyone deals with the calling out in a different way, the behaviour can worsen or escalate.

Dealing with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia is complicated. For treatment to work requires:

  • Time
  • Effort
  • Patience
  • Teamwork
  • Persistence
  • Perserverance
  • Constant re-assessment