Dementia: Treating Patients and Caregivers with Complementary and Alternative Medicine – Results of a Clinical Expert Conference Using the World Caf&spamp;#233; Method

Harald Walach

Year: 2013


In Germany the number of inhabitants with dementia is expected to increase from 1.2 million at present to 2.3 million in 2050. Our aim was to investigate which treatments complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) experts consider to be of therapeutic use in developing treatment strategies and hypotheses for further clinical studies.


In a participatory group workshop the 'World Café' method was used. As questions we asked: 1) 'Based on your clinical experience, which CAM therapies are effective in the treatment of patients with dementia? 2) Based on your clinical experience, which CAM therapies are effective in the treatment of lay and professional caregivers of patients with dementia?, and 3) How should a CAM treatment program look like?' Further Delphi rounds were used to reach consensus and summarize the results.


The 2-day workshop took place in January 2012 in Berlin. A total of 17 experts participated. The most important subject in the treatment was the need to understand patients' biographies in order to individualize the therapy. Therapy itself consists of the therapeutic relationship, nonmedical therapies such as sports, massage, music and arts therapy as well as medical treatment such as herbal or homeopathic medicines. With regard to caregivers the most important aim is to prevent or reduce psychological distress, e.g., by mind-body programs. Instead of single treatments, more general elements such as understanding the patients' biographies, therapeutic relationships, individualizing, networking, and self-care emerged as main results.


An integrative treatment program should connect outpatient and inpatient care as well as all experts. CAM training courses should be offered to doctors, nurses, and caregivers. Future clinical studies should focus on complex intervention programs integrating these key elements.