The Times

Tom Whipple

Gerry Gajadharsingh writes:

“As an Osteopath it’s great to see that manual treatment (soft tissue work) has some research evidence to say that it can help people with dementia, albeit id advanced dementia on patients in an agitated/aggressive state. It’s good to know that NIHCE in the UK already suggest soft tissue work.”


Massage and music therapy are more effective than sedatives at calming people with dementia, according to a study whose authors say it is time to move away from drugging patients.

“There is a growing understanding that to, frankly, chemically sedate someone is not necessarily a humane thing to do,” said Jennifer Watt, a geriatric medicine specialist at the University of Toronto.

She and colleagues conducted the research in the hope of finding effective alternatives and to show carers that there are better ways to deal with patients who are aggressive or agitated.

“Over the last number of years, nursing homes have become very aware of the medications they are using and try to seek out alternative strategies and more patient-centred care”, she said.

“Anecdotally, we all believed these non-medicinal treatments should be given a better priority,” she said. “But we wanted to see if they worked as well or better.” The study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, reanalysed data from 163 previous studies involving almost 22,000 patients.

It found that massage therapy, music therapy or the two combined were more effective than the usual methods of care. Both were also simple enough, it argued, to be incorporated into standard regimes.

“Massage could be as simple as a care provider or family member massaging their hands for five or ten minutes,” she said. “Music therapy can be held in a general setting across many patients, in the common room, or could be tailored to individuals.

“I can think of times in my practice where we have had two patients wearing headphones — one listening to classic rock, one to jazz.”

In Britain, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence already recommends that carers dealing with aggressive and upset patients first try non-drug treatments such as massage, exercise and aromatherapy, though it also says that antipsychotic drugs can help control hallucinations.