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Spotlight on Evidence Synthesis Program

ESP Report: Non-Pharmacological Interventions for Behavioral Symptoms of Dementia


by Susan Cooley, PhD ; Gregory Hinrichsen, PhD ; Bradley Karlin, PhD ; Maya O'Neil, PhD
Seminar date: 6/23/2011

Description: It is estimated that more than half a million Veterans suffer from dementia. The associated behavioral symptoms (e.g., aggression, wandering) can result in decreased quality of life, increased caregiver burden, and greater healthcare costs. Behavioral symptoms occur in as many as 90% of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and are most often cited by caregivers as the reason for placing individuals with dementia into residential care. Psychotropic medications are commonly used to reduce the frequency and severity of behavioral symptoms of dementia. However, there is little evidence that such interventions are effective, and the potential side effects are frequent and often hazardous. Therefore, non-pharmacological interventions (e.g., cognitive/emotion-oriented therapy, sensory simulation, behavior management) may be a good alternative. Upon request from the VHA Dementia Steering Committee, investigators at the VA Evidence-based Synthesis Program in Portland, OR conducted an evidence review of articles that were published from the inception of the literature database through July 2009. Investigators identified 28 systematic reviews and 25 primary articles in order to answer three key questions regarding non-pharmacological interventions for behavioral symptoms of dementia.

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