Students learn about medication and non-medication strategies for reducing symptoms of depression and other neuropsychiatric symptoms (e.g. agitation, anxiety) in people with dementia. While non-medication strategies are often emphasised as being preferable, often we lack the time and resources to facilitate their implementation. There is also a sense that people believe that medications worked better—even though we don’t really know if this is true since studies comparing medication to non-medication strategies are rare.
The problem with prescribing medications in this patient population is that medications are associated with potentially catastrophic side effects (e.g. falls and fractures). Jennifer Watt and Zahra Goodarzi undertook a research project looking at the comparative efficacy of interventions for reducing symptoms of depression in people with dementia. Based on their clinical experience as geriatricians, they hypothesised that non-medication strategies could effectively reduce symptoms of depression because they are addressing its underlying causes.