Objective: To review non-drug treatments for dementia; to provide a source of evidence for informal carers who want ideas about non-drug approaches for dementia, that they might try or that they could try to access. The systematic review addresses: what non-drug treatments work and what do they work for? What non-drug treatments might work and what for? What non-drug treatments do not work?
Methods: Literature searches of seven electronic databases (AMED, CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PSYCINFO, Cochrane Library of Systematic Reviews and DARE) were carried out in November 2007 using the following search terms (or derivatives): dementia/Alzheimer's AND Review AND non-drug therapies and aimed at finding systematic reviews.
Results: Thirty-three reviews were identified; 25 were judged to be high or good quality. Studies within these systematic reviews were characterised by weak study designs with small sample numbers. Three interventions were found to be effective for use with particular symptoms of dementia: music or music therapy, hand massage or gentle touch and physical activity/exercise.
Conclusions: Whilst informal carers can apply some of the interventions highlighted in the home setting at little or no cost to themselves or to health or social care services, others are likely to require training or instruction. Service providers and commissioners should explore current and future provision of more structured group activities for people with dementia; in particular the provision of group music therapy and group exercise activities that meet the needs of both the person with dementia and their carer. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.