Treating Depression in People with Dementia is Possible Without Using Drugs

It is not always necessary to use drugs to control the depression level in patients with dementia. A study suggests that therapies and exercises can lower depression and anxiety levels.

Science Daily sheds light on a recently concluded research about the efficacy of non-drug therapies for depression-related problems in dementia patients. 

What is Dementia?

Dementia is the weakening of the ability to think, remember, analyze and make a decision. It disables a person to respond promptly to any situation. Hence, a person with dementia finds it challenging to perform daily activities properly.

It mainly affects the people of old age. Yet many young people fall victim to it. In 2014, nearly 5 million adults were known to be suffering from this problem.

Moreover, Depression can worsen the mental condition of a patient. That is why it is critical to avoid anxiety and depression if you have dementia. 

Non-Drug Therapies can Make a Difference

The researchers believe that it is better to go for non-drug treatment rather than drugs. So, the doctors should emphasize therapies, exercises, and other social activities to control the depression and stress levels in patients with dementia.

A systematic review for lowering the symptoms of depression and anxiety was published online in The BMJ. Moreover, the study’s authors focused on the exercises and therapies that can reduce the stress level and help a dementia patient counter the issue without using drugs.

Currently, there are an estimated 50 million people formally diagnosed with dementia. More than 15% of them suffer from severe depression issues. Simultaneously, the symptoms of depression are present in around 30% of people who are not diagnosed with dementia.

Prior studies suggest that treating depression with exercises and other non-drug methods is possible. But the efficiency of these methods was unclear, raising the question of whether these therapies and exercises can replace the drugs to some extent.


To answer these queries, researchers conducted a study on the existing cases that counted more than 20,000. They compared the effectiveness of non-drug methodologies with drug treatments on people with dementia. 

Moreover, they analyzed the intervention of drugs and non-drug treatment on the usual symptoms of depression.

After analyzing the present cases, the researchers re-evaluated previous records of more than 250 studies based on estimated 30,000 patients. There were both formally diagnosed and undiagnosed cases included to clear the uncertainty among the common public.


Researchers found that only drugs are not appropriate for the reduction in depression and its symptoms. 

In comparison, a combination of drugs and usual care effectively reduces depression symptoms in people with dementia. 

Ultimately, they found ten ways to reduce depression with or without drugs. Here is a quick look:

Cognitive Stimulation

Experts consider cognitive stimulation to be one of the most effective non-drug methodologies to treat depression. 

There are professionals for the therapy who conduct sessions consisting of games, puzzles, discussions, etc., with groups of deliberately smaller numbers of people. Ultimately, the idea is to lower depression in individuals.


The planned movements, postures, and positions are designed by professionals that reduce depression and increase the mind and body’s ability to perform activities as per routine.

Reminiscence Therapy

This therapy involves all five senses, using objects, stories, or other evidence to recall the memories. Moreover, it consists of live sessions, conversations, and discussions. 

Eventually, these discussions develop positive feelings in patients that help them to get control over dementia.

Cholinesterase Inhibitor

Cholinesterase inhibitor is a drug for dementia. If this is used along with cognitive stimulation therapy, the results will be more effective.

Touch Therapy

Touch therapy or massage therapy helps to improve mobility and functioning of joints. Besides, it helps to eliminate stiffness in muscles that provide relaxation to your body and make you sleep better. 

These health benefits can lower depression and stress. Therefore, this therapy can be helpful for people with dementia.

Multidisciplinary Care

It is usual care that a range of professionals from different disciplines reduces anxiety and depression symptoms. This may help dementia patients to gain positive energy and lower their depression.

Psychotherapy Combined with Environmental Change

Psychotherapy helps to evaluate the factors that cause depression in a person. By talking to the individuals facing depression and dementia, they can help them erase the unpleasant events from memory. Yet, they can help to resolve those issues which are causing depression.

Psychotherapy, along with environmental modification, can create room for relaxation.

Occupational Therapy

This therapy helps people to remove the hurdles that stop them from relaxing and achieve their goals. It helps them identify their physical weaknesses and cognitive disabilities. With the help of a therapist, they can get control over these weaknesses with therapists’ use.

Animal Therapy

This therapy includes animals and pets to help people recovering from their mental or physical illness. When a person takes care of a pet and plays with it, he or she feels better. Furthermore, it reduces their feeling of loneliness which is the leading cause of depression.

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Exercise Along with Social Interaction

Social interaction helps you to minimize depression and stress. Hence, indulging yourself in healthy relationships is always beneficial. 

Exercising with mentally healthy and positive people provides you with positive energy. This non-drug treatment helps in reducing depression in people with dementia. 

Study Limitations

However, there are some limitations of the study, according to the authors. They are uncertain about identifying depression symptoms and the effects of implementing drug and non-drug treatment on different types of dementia.

Bottom Line

Depression has become one of the leading causes of mental disorders in the past 3 to 4 decades. Therefore, the experts are working hard to find out ways to lower the issue and help millions of people from suffering. 

There are many drugs available for treating mental health issues. Since these drugs are readily available yet comfortable to use, people are more inclined towards them. 

Nevertheless, there are ways and non-drug treatments as well to eliminate or lower the issue. By adopting these methods, professionals can productively deal with dementia.

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