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How is Dementia Treated?

Dementia is one of the unfortunate common issues that people face as they grow older. About one third of elderly 85 years and older may get some form of dementia, but not everyone will develop it. Dementia takes on many different forms and the symptoms can vary depending on which form you may have. One of the most common forms is Alzheimer’s disease. When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, you want to do everything you can to help them. Unfortunately there is no cure, but there are many steps that you can take that will help with their symptoms. 

Medication

These medications will help slow the process of the brain breaking down. The main types of medications are:

Acetylcholinesterase and Cholinesterase Inhibitors

These medications are used to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. These inhibitors slow down the chemical in the brain involved in breaking down the memory and judgment part of the brain, which will help nerve cells to communicate with each other. Common medication names are: ​​Donepezil (Aricept), Rivastigmine (Exelon), and Galantamine (Reminyl). Rivastigmine is prescribed if one of the main symptoms is hallucinations. 

Memantine 

This is taken when a person cannot tolerate acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. This blocks excessive glutamate in the brain which is needed for learning and memory. 

Other Medications for Related Conditions

 Some medications may be prescribed to help the symptoms of related conditions and those will vary depending on what they are and the severity. Some other common types of medications that are often prescribed are: 

  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Anxiety medications

Common conditions can include: 

  • Stroke  (Vascular dementia)
  • Heart problems
  • High blood pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Increased agitation
  • Aggression
  • Wandering
  • Hallucinations or Delusion

Therapies

After the correct medication has been determined by your loved one’s doctor, there are other things you can do to help and should consider. Therapy will be just as equally important as the medications.

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy

Help your loved one by stimulating their brain in ways that are not stress inducing. Try and think of an activity that your loved one will be able to do that is not out of their ability. Help them choose goals and tasks that they can work towards and accomplish. Such activities can include: word puzzles, reading out loud, singing, talking about current events or things that are important to them.  

Reminisce Therapy

Helping your loved one to reminisce on their life and their past will help them with their memory. Think of big life events they may have had, and ask them about it. It will help if you are able to bring photos for them to look at. If they are struggling to remember, you can begin by telling them the stories they used to tell you. Think about things that they used to love such as places they traveled, types of music they listened to, and hobbies they had. If you are able to play a favorite song, sing along and see if they are able to sing with you. If you have videos of them, you can play the videos for them and ask them about what was happening in the video. Your goal is to help them to remember, without letting them become frustrated or aggravated that they cannot remember. 

Reality Orientation Training

This would be if your loved one is suffering from severe dementia and has really forgotten most things. This would be helping them to remember the most basic of things such as pointing to the door and asking “what is this called?” “What is this used for?” 

Physical Activity, Sleep and Food

At the age of 85, your loved one may not be able to do the things they once loved to do like running or exercising, but any type of activity will always help the brain. Exercise can reduce anxiety and depression. If you are able to take them on a walk outside to look at the beautiful scenery, the fresh air can do wonders for the brain. Make sure you choose an activity that is safe and doable. Dementia symptoms tend to worsen towards the end of the day, so making sure that a good sleep routine is established will help your loved one to become less agitated.

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