Doctors write millions of prescriptions a year for drugs to calm the behavior of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. But non-drug approaches actually work better, and carry far fewer risks, experts conclude in a new report.

In fact, non-drug approaches should be the first choice for treating dementia patients’ common symptoms such as irritability, agitation, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, aggression, apathy and delusions, say the researchers in a paper just published by the British Medical Journal.

The best evidence among non-drug approaches is for those that focus on training caregivers — whether they are spouses, adult children or staff in nursing homes and assisted living facilities — to make behavioral and environmental interventions.

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