Non-pharmacological treatment options

Non-pharmacological treatments

Symptoms of cognitive impairment and BPSD may be treated with a variety of non-pharmacological interventions that span psychological, behavioural and environmental domains.  

As a health professional, you can obtain advice about the availability of these activities and training sessions for your patients and their families and carers at DBMAS.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - may be useful to assist with adjustment to the initial diagnosis, forward planning and in treating depression in early stage dementia. These interventions may be particularly useful at the time of initial diagnosis.

Psychotherapy and psycho-educational interventions - may assist carers to cope with assisting the person with dementia and to maintain their own health and wellbeing. 

Behavioural Management Therapy - may be useful in targeting challenging (difficult to manage) behavioural patterns in persons with dementia. Such behaviours may include wandering, agitation and repetitive questioning.

Environmental approaches/modification - encourage creative solutions to dementia symptoms, targeting the environment of the person with dementia. The ideal environment for a patient with dementia is one that is non-stressful, constant and familiar. 

Dementia support groups - can help people to develop useful, supportive networks and realise the full extent of potential support services if or when required. There are many Dementia Australia carer support groups available for assistance.

Montessori activities - focuses on supporting the independence of people with memory loss through  meaningful activities, roles and environmental cueing.

Memory training and using external memory aids can assist a person in the early stages of dementia to maximise their cognitive functioning and independence.

Alternative therapies - light massage and aromatherapy, music and dance therapy, animal assisted therapy, multi-sensory therapy.

For more information:

 Non-Pharmacological Therapies for Alzheimer's Disease

Work with the carer and draw on their expertise and insight

Often a family member or carer has a unique insight into the needs, preferences and symptoms of a person with dementia. It is therefore important to include them, where practicable, in discussions about the diagnosis and care management of your patient, and also to support the needs of the carer.

For advice, information and support for carers, let them know about Dementia Australia - helpline and services.

Helping your patients live well with dementia

Engage, Enable and Empower your patients to live well after a diagnosis

As a health professional, you can help Engage, Enable & Empower your patients to live well after a diagnosis of dementia.

As a health professional, there are lots of things you can do that will serve to help your patients live as well as possible. These assistance include offering suggestions for help with memory, staying active and social, keeping safe, and staying healthy.

The Engage, Enable and Empower Project has been funded by the National Quality Dementia Care Initiative (NQDCI) and has produced a range of evidence based health promotion resources that aim to enhance the quality of life for people living with dementia. 

Resources for health professionals:

Helping you help your patients: live well with dementia

Information for your patients:

Living well with dementia

For more information:

  • link to numbered publication - available November 2015
  • The dementia guide - Living well after diagnosis - coming soon, available in hard copy and download from June 2016

Referral to community support and services:

Current research supports behavioural management interventions for people living with dementia, as well as education, counselling and other community support services for patients and their carers and family.

Non-medical concerns for the person with dementia and their families / carers

Your patient and their carers and family will most likely have a range of concerns during different stages of the disease. These include: communication, safety, activities of daily living (cooking, driving), employment, social engagement, access to community support and acute care, pain management, challenging behaviours (BPSD), nutrition and health, advanced care planning, financial/legal planning, carer/family support, and options for respite and residential care.

If you have a practice nurse in your clinic, they may also be able to spend some time discussing dementia-relevant services and support programs in the local community and online.You can find more information about this at Dementia practice guidelines.

Legal issues

Encourage patients and their families to address the necessary legal and financial issues as a matter of importance and priority, preferably while the patient with dementia can still express their views (wills, enduring Power of Attorney/medical Power of Attorney, enduring guardianship for medical matters and service provisions). For more information contact the State Trustees and Office of the Public Advocate.

For more information

  • Dementia Australia 2015 paper on 'Legal Rights' - coming soon
  • Video seminar series for general practice - relevant State Trustees video - coming soon

Advance care planning  

For more information:

For more information about advanced care planning for health professionals, please go to:

Key Community support and services

  • The Dementia Australia National Dementia Helpline is a FREE telephone information and support service available across Australia - 1800 100 500. You can find more information in the Dementia Australia Help Sheets
  • Carers Australia is the national peak body representing Australia's carers, with an aim to influencing policies and services at a national level.
  • For advice, information and support for carers to improve their health, wellbeing, capacity, financial security and resilience, please contact your state and territory office Carers Association.
  • My Aged Care. It is the gateway to commonwealth funded services. Provides up-to-date information and an entry point into Australia's aged care systems and services (including aged care assessment).
  • Carer Gateway is a national service that provides practical information and resources to support anyone who is a carer.  Call 1800 422 737 or visit
  • Dementia Behavioural Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) provides advice, assessment, education, intervention and specialised support, 24 hours a day to carers and care workers of people with dementia who experience moderate to severe behaviours of concern.
  • Advanced Care Planning. Developed by Austin Health, this external website contains information about how to make an advance care plan, including information and documents relevant to your state or territory. More information is available at Advance care planning
  • Local Councils - refer to your local council (LGA) website