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.