Dement Neurocogn Disord.  2022 Jan;21(1):1-16. 10.12779/dnd.2022.21.1.1.

Exploring Factors Associated With Successful Nonpharmacological Interventions for People With Dementia

  • 1Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA
  • 2Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham, AL, USA


Background and purpose
We investigated existing nonpharmacological programs for people with dementia (PWD) to explore critical factors related to the effectiveness of these types of programs.
We conducted a qualitative systematic literature review to identify nonpharmacological intervention programs developed for PWD and reviewed 36 randomized controlled trials. Among several outcomes reported in each study, we focused on the most common outcomes including quality of life (QoL), neuropsychiatric symptoms, depression, agitation, and cognition for further review.
Several factors were identified that might affect the outcomes of nonpharmacological interventions for PWD including study design, characteristics of the intervention, maintaining research participants, heterogeneity issues, and implementation fidelity. About half of studies in this review reported positive program effects on their targeted outcomes such as Well-being and Health for PWD on improving quality of life, neuropsychiatric symptoms and agitation; cognitive stimulation therapy on QoL, neuropsychiatric symptoms and cognition; and a stepwise multicomponent intervention on neuropsychiatric symptoms, depression and agitation.
We found some programs even with a rigorous study design did not produce expected outcomes while other programs with poor designs reported positive outcomes, which necessitates further investigation on the validity of the assessments. Factors such as individual tailored and customized interventions, promoting social interactions, ease of administration and compatibility of interventions, and developing program theory need to be considered when developing nonpharmacological intervention programs.


Dementia; Alzheimer Disease; Nonpharmacological Intervention; Program Theory
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