• acupressure;
  • agitated behaviour;
  • dementia;
  • nursing

Aims and objectives.  To investigate the efficacy of acupressure in decreasing agitated behaviours associated with dementia.

Background.  Agitated behaviour is found in nearly half of all patients who have dementia. The presence of these behaviours increases the likelihood of injury, weakness, dehydration and lack of sleep and contributes to caregiver frustration and fatigue.

Design.  This pilot study was designed with subjects receiving both acupressure and the control treatment. Each subject served as his or her own control. Subjects received four weeks of acupressure protocols; to avoid a carry-over effect there was a treatment-free period of one week. Subjects then were visited by one of the investigators for a six-week period.

Methods.  Participants were recruited from a nursing home caring specifically for patients with dementia. Twenty of the 31 subjects (64·5%) completed the study, while 11 were discharged or hospitalized. All the subjects were assigned to an experimental protocol and had a six-week acupressure treatment program. Baseline data were collected in the first week. Individual treatment sessions began at the second week of the study and lasted 15 minutes, twice a day, five days a week for four weeks. After a treatment-free period of one week, all the subjects served as controls undergoing a four-week control protocol consisting of companionship and conversation.

Results.  Comparison between the control and experimental phases indicated significant differences between the two groups on all outcome measures (Cohen–Mansfield Agitation Inventory, daily agitation records about physical attack, verbal and non-verbal attack and non-physical attack) with better results found during the acupressure phase.

Conclusions.  Acupressure is recommended as an efficacious and non-intrusive method for decreasing the agitation behaviours in patients with dementia.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Conducting the acupressure treatment takes 15 minutes. It could provide caregivers with a viable alternative to deal with patients with dementia.