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Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2018 Feb;33(2):e177-e192. doi: 10.1002/gps.4783. Epub 2017 Sep 29.

A systematic review of non-pharmacological treatments for apathy in dementia.

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Division of Geriatric Psychiatry, First Department of Psychiatry, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.



Apathy is one of the most frequent neuropsychiatric symptoms encountered in dementia. Early diagnosis and timely treatment of apathy in dementia are crucial because apathy has been associated with poor disease outcome, reduced daily functioning, and caregiver distress.


Extensive electronic search from the databases included in the National Library of Medicine as well as PsychInfo and Google Scholar for studies which have investigated the effect of non-pharmacological treatments of apathy in dementia. Quality of the studies was appraised.


A total of 1303 records were identified and 120 full-texts assessed. Forty-three unique studies were reviewed. A variety of interventions were found to be effective in reducing apathy in demented patients, particularly when provided in a multidisciplinary manner. However, quantification of the effect was limited by the marked methodological heterogeneity of the studies and the small number of studies where apathy was the primary outcome measure.


Treatment of apathy in dementia is a complex and underexplored field. Certain studies suggest promise for a variety of non-pharmacological interventions. Standardized and systematic efforts primarily focusing on apathy may establish a benefit from individualized treatments for specific disease groups.


apathy; dementia; non-pharmacological; systematic review; treatment

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