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Nondrug Interventions Can Help Alleviate Depression in Dementia Patients

FRIDAY, March 26, 2021 -- For people with dementia with symptoms of depression, without a major depressive disorder, nondrug interventions are more efficacious than drug interventions, according to a review published online March 24 in The BMJ.

Jennifer A. Watt, M.D., Ph.D., from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, and colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to describe the comparative efficacy of drug and nondrug interventions for reducing symptoms of depression in people with dementia who experience depression. Data were included from 256 studies with 28,483 people with dementia.

The researchers found that based on 213 studies with 25,177 people with dementia without a diagnosis of major depressive disorder who were experiencing symptoms of depression, seven interventions were associated with a greater reduction in symptoms of depression compared with usual care: cognitive stimulation, cognitive stimulation combined with a cholinesterase inhibitor, massage and touch therapy, multidisciplinary care, occupational therapy, exercise combined with social interaction and cognitive stimulation, and reminiscence therapy (mean difference: −2.93, −11.39, −9.03, −1.98, −2.59, −12.37, and −2.30, respectively). No statistically significant difference was found in the comparative efficacy of drug and nondrug interventions for reducing symptoms of depression in people with dementia without a diagnosis of a major depressive disorder except for massage and touch therapy, cognitive stimulation combined with a cholinesterase inhibitor, and cognitive stimulation combined with exercise and social interaction, which were more efficacious than some drug interventions.

"Nondrug and multidisciplinary approaches are highly efficacious interventions from which people with dementia will derive benefit," the authors write.

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