The term Non-pharmacological is a fancy word for non-medical. Non-pharmacological interventions to dementia, such as using a research-based design that can foster independence may be the right option for your loved one. Another example of a Non-pharmacological approach is use of programming that utilizes social, physical, intellectual, and nutritional engagement. Non-pharmacological interventions often focus on treating the whole person while many pharmacological (medical) interventions focus on treating the symptoms. In dementia care, non-pharmacological interventions have been scientifically proven to cause significant improvements and sustained cognitive function, independence, and a good quality of life. In addition, they may increase neuroplasticity, physical functionality, fine motor skills, and even improve eyesight. In many cases, if a person is engaged in social, physical, intellectual, and nutritional engagement routinely, the symptoms of dementia may be slowed down.
Most forms of dementia do not currently have a cure, but they all have treatment options, including both pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches and interventions. Unfortunately, there are misconceptions associated with pharmacological treatment. Many people believe medication that is used to treat dementia symptoms slow down dementia progression. Medications are only a temporary mask for the signs and symptoms, just as a decongestant can clear up congestion but cannot cure the flu.
With this being said, non-pharmacological intervention can have a tremendous impact on the quality of life for someone with dementia.
Examples of non-pharmacological interventions in dementia care:
- Avoiding the use of black welcome/door mats as they may be perceived as a hole to someone with dementia.
- Use therapeutic music which can increase energy and foster socialization.
- Use clinical aroma therapy which can improve engagement and concentration.
- Implement light therapy which can foster a healthy circadian rhythm (the rhythm that our body undergoes which is associated with our sleep cycle).
By Joshua Freitas, M.Ed., BC-DEd, CAEd; Vice President of Program Development & Theodosia Heiserman, DP-NC; Resident Engagement Director
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