- What are the early signs of dementia?
- What are the follow-on symptoms of dementia?
- What are the types and stages of dementia?
- What causes dementia?
- What are the complications and risk factors of dementia?
- How is dementia diagnosed?
- How is dementia treated?
- Some more questions you may have regarding dementia
How is dementia treated?
Most of the types of dementia cannot be cured, however, there are a number of ways to manage the symptoms of the condition:
The below medications can be used to temporarily improve the symptoms of dementia:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors – These include rivastigmine (Exelon), donepezil (Aricept) and galantamine (Razadyne). These medications work through boosting the judgment and memory of the patient.
- These medications are used to primarily treat Alzheimer’s disease, however, they are often used for other types of dementias including Parkinson’s disease dementia, vascular dementia, as well as Lewy body dementia. The common side effects are normally diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.
- Memantine (Namenda) – This type of medication works through regulating glutamate activity, glutamate is a chemical messenger in the brain involved in the functioning of the brain such as memory and learning. In some cases, this medication will be prescribed with a cholinesterase inhibitor. The common side effect of this drug is dizziness.
- Combination drugs – doctors may also use a drug known as Namzaric, this is a combination of both the cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. This drug helps in slowing down the progression of memory loss.
- Other medications – The doctor may also prescribe medications that are used to treat other conditions or symptoms such as agitation, sleep apnoea or depression.
A number of the symptoms of dementia as well as behavioural issues may be treated through nondrug approaches initially. These include:
- Occupational therapy – A role of an occupational therapist may be to show the caregiver or loved one how to make a home that is more accommodating for the patient and also teach the patient and those involved on how to cope with certain behaviours associated with dementia. This can help everyone prepare for the condition should it progress and prevent accidents from occurring such as falls or too much confusion being experienced by the patient in their home.
- Altering the environment –Reducing the noise and clutter in a home can allow for the environment to be that of an accommodating one and allows for the patient suffering from dementia to be able to function and focus better in their home. Hiding dangerous items such as knives and creating places for everyday items such as keys and medications can make it easier. Systems to monitor the patient can also be installed so as to keep track of the patient should they wander or get lost.
- Modifying tasks – Breaking tasks into smaller and easier steps helps the patient to focus on their success and not their failure. Creating and implementing a routine and structure can also help prevent or reduce confusion associated with those suffering from dementia.
There are a number of dietary supplements, therapies and herbal remedies that have been researched and studies for those suffering from dementia. There is still much research needed in order to supply concrete evidence, however, some of these alternate treatment methods have been seen to have beneficial properties.
It is advised that one should always use caution when taking any dietary supplements, herbal remedies or medications. It is best that you speak to your doctor first if you are thinking about taking or administering any medications to someone with dementia. There are several alternate medications that have been studied and have been said to be effective, these include:
- Vitamin E – The evidence regarding those who have taken vitamin E to treat dementia is yet to be proven, however, it is thought to have positive results. Doctors advise against the intake of large doses of the vitamin as this can result in issues in those who suffer from a heart disease.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Some evidence has been found to support the fact that eating fish and other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids may lower one’s risk of developing dementia. However, there are also clinical studies that have been conducted to show that these supplements do not significantly reduce the cognitive decline in those who suffer from dementia.
- Ginkgo – This is a herbal medication that is believed to have strong antioxidant properties.
The below techniques have been found to possibly reduce agitation in those with dementia and even promote relaxation in patients:
- Massage therapy
- Music therapy – Listening to soft and soothing music
- Pet therapy – Visiting, petting and playing with dogs has been said to improve the behaviours and moods of those with dementia.
- Art therapy – This involves expressing oneself through art
- Aromatherapy – This uses fragrant plant oils
Continuous research that is being done on dementia
There is ongoing research being done on dementia, with the focus on new treatments being used to slow down the progression of the patient’s cognitive dysfunction. There is also research that focuses on decreasing the damage to the brain and progression of dementia due to the presence of abnormal proteins, known as the tau and beta amyloid proteins. As well as this, researchers are still trying to find and identify what genes are responsible for or contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and in doing so, develop certain drugs that are made to modify these specific genes.
Identifying the treatments and causes responsible for the inflammation of the brain is another area of research being conducted. Research regarding the use of insulin and the brain cells may, in turn, lead to innovative treatments for dementia.