Sensory-based interventions for the immediate de-escalation of agitation in people with dementia: A systematic review

Daphne Sze Ki Cheung, Shan Shan Wang, Yan Li, Ken Hok Man Ho, Robin Ka Ho Kwok, Siu Hong Mo, Daniel Bressington

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Objectives: Sensory-based interventions are commonly used to reduce the occurrence of agitation in people with dementia over extended periods. However, the evidence regarding their immediate de-escalation effects is unclear. The objectives of this systematic review are to (a) identify which sensory-based interventions have been used for de-escalating agitation and (b) examine the immediate effects of these interventions on de-escalating agitation in people with dementia. 

    Methods: A systematic review was performed in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. Data sources were identified by searching Embase, Medline, PsycINFO, and CINAHL for publications up to 2 March 2022. The de-escalating agitation effect had to be measured during the intervention or within 15 min after commencing the treatment. Only randomized controlled trials or quasi-experimental studies published in English were included. 

    Results: Nine studies met the inclusion criteria: two randomized controlled trials, one cross-over study, and six quasi-experimental studies. All were conducted in Western countries, involving a total of 246 participants. Music-related interventions were investigated in seven studies, and a positive effect on de-escalating agitation was found, with no side-effects. All of the studies had methodological limitations, including a single group design, blinding, an insufficient sample size, and imprecisely reported results. 

    Conclusion: There is a profound dearth of rigorous studies examining the immediate agitation de-escalating effects of sensory-based interventions on people with dementia. However, the limited evidence on music-related interventions is encouraging. More rigorous research is recommended to confirm the effects.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    Number of pages13
    JournalAging and Mental Health
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022


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