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Gerontologist. 2018 Jan 18;58(suppl_1):S88-S102. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnx167.

Evidence-Based Nonpharmacological Practices to Address Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia.

Author information

PHI, Bronx, New York.
School of Social Work, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Background and Objectives:

To draw from systematic and other literature reviews to identify, describe, and critique nonpharmacological practices to address behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSDs) and provide evidence-based recommendations for dementia care especially useful for potential adopters.

Research Design and Methods:

A search of systematic and other literature reviews published from January 2010 through January 2017. Nonpharmacological practices were summarized to describe the overall conceptual basis related to effectiveness, the practice itself, and the size and main conclusions of the evidence base. Each practice was also critically reviewed to determine acceptability, harmful effects, elements of effectiveness, and level of investment required, based on time needed for training/implementation, specialized care provider requirements, and equipment/capital requirements.


Nonpharmacological practices to address BPSDs include sensory practices (aromatherapy, massage, multi-sensory stimulation, bright light therapy), psychosocial practices (validation therapy, reminiscence therapy, music therapy, pet therapy, meaningful activities), and structured care protocols (bathing, mouth care). Most practices are acceptable, have no harmful effects, and require minimal to moderate investment.

Discussion and Implications:

Nonpharmacological practices are person-centered, and their selection can be informed by considering the cause and meaning of the individual's behavioral and psychological symptoms. Family caregivers and paid care providers can implement evidence-based practices in home or residential care settings, although some practices require the development of more specific protocols if they are to become widely used in an efficacious manner.


Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD); Dementia care; Evidence; Nonpharmacological; Recommendations; Review

[Available on 2019-01-18]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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