Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Systematic review of evidence underpinning non-pharmacological therapies in dementia

Richard Olley A B and Andrea Morales A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Medicine, Griffith University, PO Box 3370, South Brisbane, Qld 4101, Australia. Email: andrea.moralesaldas@griffithuni.edu.au

B Corresponding author. Email: r.olley@griffith.edu.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16212
Submitted: 21 September 2016  Accepted: 27 March 2017   Published online: 15 May 2017

Abstract

Objective Dementia is one of the most common illnesses worldwide, and is one of the most important causes of disability in older people. Currently, dementia affects over 35 million people around the globe. It is expected that this number will increase to 65.7 million by 2030. Early detection, diagnosis and treatment to control the principal behaviour symptoms may help reduce these numbers and delay the progression to more advanced and dangerous stages of this disorder with resultant increase quality of life for those affected. The main goal of the present systematic literature review was to examine contemporary evidence relating to non-pharmacological therapy in the treatment of dementia.

Methods To achieve the study goal, the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement was used.

Results This study identified the five most common behaviours in patients with dementia as aggression, wandering, agitation, apathy and sleep disturbances. Two non-pharmacological therapies were the most studied treatment: music therapy and aromatherapy. Ten other non-pharmacological therapies were also identified, but these lack a sufficient evidence-base.

Conclusion Although all the therapies identified could be used as part of the treatment of behavioural symptoms, there is insufficient evidence relating to the indications, appropriate use and effectiveness of these therapies to apply in each behavioural treatment. Thus, the present study has demonstrated a significant research gap.

What is known about the topic? Despite the widespread use of many different types of therapies, there is limited evidence regarding the efficacy of non-pharmaceutical therapies deployed in the management of behaviours of concern manifested by some people who suffer with dementia in all its forms.

What does this paper add? This systematic review examines contemporary evidence from the literature to determine whether there is an evidence base available that would underpin the use of these therapies. This report on a PRISMA systematic review of the available literature demonstrates that only two therapies have some evidence to underpin the use of these non-pharmaceutical therapies and that a significant research gap is exists.

What are the implications for practitioners? The implications for practitioners is that significant research effort is required to determine the efficacy of many of the therapies that are currently deployed, and thus many of the therapies used lack an evidence base at this time.


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