Recent Blog Articles

Harvard Health Blog

What’s the best way to manage agitation related to dementia?

February 14, 2020

About the Author

photo of Stephanie Collier, MD, MPH

Stephanie Collier, MD, MPH, Contributor

Dr. Stephanie Collier is the director of education in the division of geriatric psychiatry at McLean Hospital; consulting psychiatrist for the population health management team at Newton-Wellesley Hospital; and instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. … See Full Bio
View all posts by Stephanie Collier, MD, MPH


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


February 26, 2020

In my 16 years of work with this population, I am able to decrease agitation with exactly what your article is indicating with gentle comfort massage, along with calmative oils. It’s wonderful to see agitation being reduced! It isn’t a cure by any means but it helps to disrupt the stress that the patient is experiencing.

Theressa Clark
February 21, 2020

My husband of 85 was diagnosed with early dementia about a month ago. He has become more combative the last week. When he says something very upsetting to me is he able to feel sorry he said the hurtful to me or is that feeling no longer available to him?

Louise Morse
February 21, 2020

Not just the US, the UK too. Also, even dedicated family caregivers don’t always have the time to do this. However, the facts are true and helpful. Could also have mentioned that if the agitation is due to pain – not always easy to tell with a personal with dementia – the best thing to do is give him or her Paracetamol. Recommended by a brilliant doctor I know and a psychiatrist, and many others.

February 14, 2020

Gee, I wonder which of those types of treatment insurers are most likely to pay for? I’m sure it’s medication. All of the types of care recommended cost more, involve more people. They’re also helpful for people with other forms of mental illness. Insurers rarely pay for those services.

So nice ideas, US needs a new health care system if they’re to be provided to all of those who need it. Otherwise, only the very well off wil.

February 21, 2020

The bottom line is!!
All of these are great,. But good luck with health Insurance to cover.

Dan L
February 22, 2020

Unfortunately Medicare is no better than private insurers and often worse, considering there is no PR incentive. Dealing with Medicare now and it’s a nightmare. What most people don’t know is that Medicare actually pays most hospitals to treat less. If the hospital saves Medicare money the hospital gets a check.

Don’t know the answer, but part of it must be that our society needs to relearn respect and compassion and to value old people again.

Also, perhaps we could not use Medicare money for every cold or other minor ailment that we could pay for ourselves. Medicare for All would be a disaster because it would take more services away from seniors and give them to healthy people who are working and could spend their own money on premiums.

Commenting has been closed for this post.

You might also be interested in…

Caregiver’s Handbook: A guide to caring for the ill, elderly, disabled, and yourself

Close to 66 million informal or family caregivers offer assistance of all sorts to adults in America. Their efforts are vital to the lives of people struggling with illness, disability, or the changes that often accompany aging. This Special Health Report, Caregiver's Handbook: A guide to caring for the ill, elderly, or disabled—and yourself, will assist you in meeting the needs of the person you care for while attending to your own. It includes financial, legal, and medical information that’s vital to caregivers, as well as a special section devoted to caring for yourself as you navigate caregiving challenges.

Read More

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.