Nursing facility residents suffering from dementia and living in a group of Bavarian facilities in Germany were able to postpone their decline in cognitive function through nonpharmacological means, according to a new study released in the journal BMC Medicine.

The study, “Non-pharmacological, Multicomponent Group Therapy in Patients with Degenerative Dementia: A 12-month Randomised, Controlled Trial,” found a prolonged, intensive program of motor stimulation and other means worked better than the regular drug routine.

The reason for the study is that currently available pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatments have shown only modest effects in slowing the progression of dementia. The study’s objective was to assess the impact of a long-term nonpharmacological group intervention on cognitive function in patients with dementia and on their ability to carry out activities of daily living (ADLs) compared with a control group receiving the usual care.

The trial involved 98 patients with primary degenerative dementia in five nursing homes in Bavaria. The intervention consisted of motor stimulation, practice in ADLs (like going to the bathroom), and cognitive stimulation (acronym MAKS). The care was conducted in groups of 10 residents led by two therapists for two hours, six days a week for 12 months. 

Cognitive function was assessed using the cognitive subscale of the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale and the ability to carry out ADLs using the Erlangen Test of Activities of Daily Living at baseline and after 12 months.

Report authors said after 12 months, the results showed that cognitive function and the ability to carry out ADLs had remained stable in the intervention group but had decreased in the control patients.

This result led to the conclusion that a highly standardized, nonpharmacological, multicomponent group intervention conducted in a nursing facility setting was able to postpone a decline in cognitive function in dementia patients and in their ability to carry out ADLs for at least 12 months.