The potential benefit of nonpharmacologic memory-boosting strategies in the mild stages
One study from a group of Boston researchers examined 32 individuals with mild memory problems, half with mild cognitive impairment and half with mild Alzheimer’s disease dementia. They found that both groups improved their memory by simply thinking about the following question when learning new information: “What is one unique characteristic of this item or personal experience that differentiates it from others?” Another study by Boston researchers found that 19 individuals with mild cognitive impairment could improve their ability to remember items at a virtual supermarket by simply thinking systematically about whether items were already in their cupboard before putting them in their shopping cart. Larger studies are needed, however, to determine if such memory strategies are generalizable.
Music, pets, robots, and the environment in the moderate to severe stages
Similarly, there are many nonpharmacological treatments that appear to provide comfort and reduce agitation in individuals with moderate to severe dementia, but larger and more rigorous studies are needed to prove or disprove their efficacy, and thereby promote more widespread utilization.
- A group of Portuguese clinicians and researchers reviewed more than 100 studies evaluating music-based interventions for people with dementia who had agitation or other behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, finding that the vast majority were efficacious with little or no side effects.
- A team of neurologists from Florida reviewed the effects of dog therapy and ownership, finding that both were safe and effective approaches to treat chronic and progressive neurological disorders.
- Other researchers found reductions in anxiety and psychoactive medication use when robot pets were given to individuals with dementia.
- A review of the built environment (the architecture of the home or facility) concluded that “specific design interventions are beneficial to the outcomes of people with dementia.”