There are a broad range of psychosocial strategies of varying complexity available for use in managing behaviours exhibited by people with dementia. They are most effective when using an individualised approach, taking into account the person’s history including culture, family, interests and working life. It is beneficial if activities are meaningful and relevant to the client.

A regular routine, allowing for flexibility in care is often beneficial for clients. A strategy that works one day may not work the next; however this does not mean that the strategy is ineffective and that it should not be used again.

A brief overview of some of the more effective psychosocial strategies has been provided below. For further information or assistance with implementing any psychosocial strategies, please call DBMAS on 1800 699 799.



  • lady-offering-support

    • Validation therapy is a communication approach that “validates” or accept the values, beliefs and “reality” of the person with dementia - even if it has no perceived basis in reality.
    • Validation therapy can reduce stress and frustration by accepting the person’s reality rather than attempting to orient them.
    • Validation therapy relies on validation at a verbal and nonverbal communication level to be effective.
  • exercising

    • Exercise and physical therapy is the use of movement to improve physical health and wellbeing.
    • Exercise has numerous health benefits including social engagement, improved mobility, reduced risk of falls and improved quality of life for participants. Examples of exercises include dancing, tai chi and walking.
    • Consider physio review and GP review to ensure the participant is safe to take part in exercise programs.
  • garden-decoration

    • Multi-sensory stimulation involves stimulating the primary senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. Therapy includes the use of lighting effects, tactile surfaces, meditative music, smelling salts.
    • Multi-sensory stimulation can improve concentration, alertness and wellbeing of the client.
    • Be aware that over stimulation can also lead to escalated behavioural symptoms.
  • comforting

    • SRT involves brief 1 minute interactions every 30 minutes consisting of positive social interactions where no nursing/ care tasks are performed.
    • SRT is replicated throughout the day to reduce agitation / anxiety and provide the client with companionship and increased wellbeing.
    • Client may become agitated / anxious if the program is not strictly adhered to. Consistency is the key to success.
  • incense-burning

    • Aromatherapy involves using essential oils to calm and relax the client.
    • Lemon balm and lavender have been researched and evidence exists fortheir calming properties mainly in relation to the management of agitation.
    • Consult the client’s GP and contact an accredited aromatherapist to conduct sessions with clients as there may be incompatabilities with existing medical conditions.
    • To find out more about Aromatherapy read the following article
      Aromatherapy for dementia related behaviours
  • candles

    • Spirituality relates to the human spirit or soul as opposed to the physical body. This includes traditional and alternative beliefs.
    • Spiritual and religious beliefs and practices can be a significant source of comfort for people and reduce anxiety related to uncertainty and fear.
    • Spiritual beliefs and practices are often of significant importance to people. Where possible allow people the freedom to choose to engage with their individual spiritual beliefs and practices.
  • cuddle-dog

    • Pet therapy is the use of animals or pets to improve well-being and quality of life in people with dementia
    • The use of visiting pet services or staff and family members’ pets can reduce anxiety and stress and be a useful diversional technique.
    • Animals and pets can be unpredictable. Pet therapy should always be used under close supervision. Consider the use of stuffed toys or robotic toy animals as an alternative to real pets.
  • lady-with-headphones-on

    • Music therapy is the use of music to improve well-being. It can include listening to music, singing, humming, playing instruments and swaying / tapping to the beat.
    • Music therapy can be effective in improving overall quality of life, reducing a number of behaviours of concern. Using familiar and favourite music is most successful.
    • Be sure to learn the likes and dislikes of the person with dementia. Avoid over stimulation or triggering unpleasant memories. A registered music therapist can help you implement a music therapy program.
  • autumn-scene

    • Bright light therapy involves exposure to natural sunlight or full spectrum artificial light of 2500 lux brightness for thirty minute periods in the morning and evening. This helps to regulate a person’s sleeping pattern.
    • Bright light therapy can be effective to reduce sleep disturbance in people with dementia, including early morning awakenings and daytime sleeping.
    • Bright light therapy should always be used within the proper limits of intensity and time.
  • calender-date

    • Reality orientation therapy is the use of verbal and environmental prompts (eg calendar clocks) to reorient a person with dementia to the present.
    • Orienting a person with dementia to their current context can assist with their independence and autonomy and reduce agitation.
    • The person with dementia’s reality may not always be the present. Open communication will allow the person with dementia to let you know where they are at the moment. Any signs of distress when using the above tools should alert you to the fact that this is not the right time or place.
  • q-a

    • Spaced retrieval is a training technique used to assist individuals with impaired memory to retain information for later recollection. It has been used successfully with people at all stages of dementia.
    • The therapy involves beginning with a prompt question for the target behavior and training the client to recall the correct answer. When retrieval is successful, the interval preceding the next recall test is increased.
    • Spaced retrieval can improve client function and independence by enhancing recall of key information related to specific tasks or behaviours.
    • It is advised to engage a psychologist or specialist trained in spaced retrieval to maximise the likelihood of success.
  • dolls

    • Doll therapy is a diversional intervention that provides people with dementia an opportunity to interact with a ‘life-like’ baby doll in a manner that is therapeutic to them.
    • Doll therapy can reduce agitated behaviour and improve quality of life for people with dementia through an opportunity to express their emotions; meaningful communication through interacting with and talking about the baby doll; and a sense of role and purpose.
    • Doll therapy can be seen as age-inappropriate. Organisational policies and guidelines should be used in conjunction with staff training on doll therapy.
  • elderly-lady-relaxing

    • Simulated presence therapy is the use of pre-recorded audio or video loops for playback to simulate and stimulate a conversation between the person and the recording.
    • Simulated presence therapy can provide meaningful occupation and can be used to alleviate boredom or prevent / reduce agitated behaviour.
    • If the person with dementia no longer recognises the voices or people this could be upsetting for them. Always assess for a positive reaction and do not persist if the person becomes unsettled by the voices or pictures. Do not use simulated presence therapy to replace other activities that the person is interacting and engaging with.
  • garden-path

    • Dementia friendly environments are those that have been modified or purposefully designed through the application of design principles that consider the needs of people with dementia.
    • Dementia related behaviours can be prevented by creating physical and built environments that are: self orienting; compensate for disability; engage the local community; maximise independence; demonstrate care for staff; and reinforce personal identity.
    • When creating dementia friendly environments remember that “homelike” is different for each individual person with dementia.

Add comment

Site designed and developed by Kwik Kopy Norwood