Non-pharmacological Therapy for Alzheimer’s Type Dementia

Have you heard about the use of non-pharmacological therapy in dementias? Next, we tell you its possibilities, highlighting those points where they are most effective.

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Before defining what is Alzheimer’s disease and non-pharmacological therapy, we must know what is a dementia. The SAR defines dementia as “progressive deterioration of the mental faculties that cause serious behavioral disorders.”

Narrowing the definition, we could say that dementia is a clinical syndrome that is given by different causes and involves the deterioration of memory, communication, attention… It is usually of a chronic nature, which leads to a gradual loss of autonomy and quality of life.

Starting from the previous base, we define Alzheimer’s disease as a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the presence of cognitive and behavioral impairment. This tends to have an insidious onset and a progressive course of appearance in adulthood, mainly in old age (Valls-Pedret, Molinuevo and Rami, 2010).

Although there is currently no effective treatment that reverses or permanently stops the course of this disease, different types of intervention have been developed to help slow the progression of dementia.

Among these treatments are non-pharmacological therapies, characterized for being interventions in which drugs are not used, but which can also improve the quality of life of people.

Non-pharmacological therapy has a great number of benefits for patients, among which are:

  • Maintenance and / or stimulation of the preserved capacities.
  • Promotion of the autonomy and independence of the user.
  • Improvement of social relations.
  • Improvement of self-concept and self-image and, therefore, self-esteem.
  • Increase in the quality of life of the user and their immediate surroundings.
  • Empowerment of the user.

“It is necessary to adapt the therapy to the patient, and not the patient to therapy.”

-Louis Théophile Joseph Landouzy-

Daily life activities

During this modality, which is performed at the functional level, the professional evaluates the performance of the person with dementia. This evaluation is carried out both in the basic activities, as in the instrumental or advanced ones.

The assessment varies depending on the level of dependence and the need for support required by the patient. The ultimate goal of this therapy is to delay or decrease the deterioration in the performance of the ADL.

Music therapy

According to the World Federation of Music Therapy (WFMT, 2011), music therapy “is the professional use of music and its elements as an intervention in medical, educational and daily environments with individuals, groups, families or communities, seeking to optimize their quality of life and improve their physical, social, communicative, emotional and intellectual health and well-being. “

Music therapy can be carried out along with other non-pharmacological therapies, such as dance therapy and physiotherapy, focusing the different disciplines in joint sessions. We must take into account the capacity of each user, always seeking the highest degree of welfare of this.

Laughter therapy

Laughter therapy techniques are based mainly on the theory of discharge and the theory of the incongruence of laughter. Promotes to find spontaneous and genuine laughter, although for this they leave on many occasions of simulated or rehearsed laughter.

Through this non-pharmacological therapy, corporal expression, play, dance, breathing … are practiced, helping to relieve stresses that may be generated by the disease.

Room snoezelen

In a type of sensory stimulation therapy developed by Anne Jean Ayres. Its objective is relaxation through the senses and the interaction of people with the environment.

The snoezelen room is an environment that, through stimuli, produces a great sense of well-being in individuals.

Reminiscence therapy

It is one of the non-pharmacological therapies on the rise. It works through the user’s episodic and autobiographical memory.

It is recommended to use resources such as photographs, music, news … This allows reaching very specific moments of the person’s life, in which they “relive” emotional aspects of the memory (sensations, smells, important events, etc.).

Reality orientation therapy

The ultimate goal of this therapy is that the person becomes aware of their reality and is guided in the three areas:

  • Time.
  • Space.
  • Person.

This will allow the user a greater understanding of what is happening, being a very useful tool when it comes to maintaining the perception of control.

Assisted intervention with dogs

This type of activity has great benefits at an emotional, social, functional and cognitive level. Improves mood, physical and psychological health, psychomotricity, etc.


Ergotherapy seeks the rehabilitation of cognitive, physical and social skills of the individual. It is done by occupying time in different activities aimed at physical production, such as crafts.

Stimulation / cognitive training or rehabilitation

Although similar, they have a different objective.

We understand as cognitive rehabilitation those activities aimed at restoring damaged cognitive functions. This damage can be due to different causes: skull trauma, mild cognitive impairment, depression…

Cognitive stimulation would be the process by which activities are carried out in order to delay cognitive decline. An example would be when a person has observed, for example, that he begins to have memory loss.

Cognitive training would be a set of activities that aim to optimize or maintain cognitive performance. It is a good method to prevent future cognitive impairment and improve cognitive reserve.

It must be taken into account that non-pharmacological therapies must be implemented by qualified professionals. In order to execute them, an evaluation of each case must be carried out.

In addition, it is interesting to note that, although there is no treatment that ends with the disease, what we can achieve with the non-pharmacological therapy that we have today is not negligible, especially considering that every day with a good quality of life it’s a gift.