In this article we will explore available medications and treatments for dementia.
There is currently no permanent cure for dementia. There are, however, different treatments that can ease the symptoms and slow down the progress speed of the disease – medications, supplements, and cognitive stimulation therapy.
Most of the dementia medications available on the market are medications that are used to treat Alzheimer’s disease (the most common type of dementia). The available medications for dementia do not heal the disease, but can lower its impact to a certain degree.
Acetylcholinesterase medications are used to block a certain enzyme, which functions to break down acetylcholine in the brain. The most commonly used medications from this family are Donepezil (also known as Aricept), Galantamine (also known as Reminyl) and Rivastigmine (also known as Exelon).
All of these medications are considered to have the same amount of effectiveness, and are used to treat mild to moderate cases of Alzheimer’s disease, and sometimes also other types of dementia. Rivastigmine will usually be prescribed in cases where delusions and hallucinations are one of the main symptoms.
This group of medications usually comes with side effects – nausea and loss of appetite. These usually take 2 – 3 weeks to pass by, until the patient gets used to the medication.
Memantine (also called Namenda) is a medication commonly used to treat moderate to severe cases of Alzheimer, Lewy body dementia and Vascular dementia.
Memantine works by reducing the impact of a chemical called glutamate, which exists in the brain and is one of the causes for dementia – excessive activity of the glutamate causes excitotoxicity and leads to brain cells death.
Side effects of Memantine might include dizziness, constipation, nausea and headaches.
Medications to treat behavioural and emotional problems caused by dementia
Some of the symptoms of dementia, especially in the later stages, include emotional and behavioural problems – constant anxiety, irritation, mood swings, restlessness and in some cases even hallucinations, delusions and aggression.
These changes in behavior can be very challenging and confusing, both for the individual who suffers from them and the family members and caretakers.
In cases of patients showing aggression, hallucinations or paranoia, antipsychotic medications might be prescribed – usually Risperidone or Haloperidol.
In cases of anxiety or depression as a result of the dementia, antidepressants might be prescribed to ease the pain of the patient.
Extensive research has been conducted in the past two decades about the workings of dementia, and the positive impact of natural remedies (plants, mushrooms, etc.) on the brain’s functioning and self healing abilities.
Natural remedies to improve memory and mental health have been in use for thousands of years in China and in tribal cultures such as in the Amazon, yet it was not accepted in the West until recent years.
Nowadays, western science is starting to research natural remedies that come from ancient, traditional healing modalities and there have been more and more 100% natural products to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, which are backed up by scientific research and evidence.
Cognitive stimulation and cognitive rehabilitation treatments
Another kind of treatment for dementia is cognitive therapy. In this kind of treatment, a therapist or coach will work with the patient, and help him stimulate and improve the damaged parts in the brain by mental exercises – for example, solving riddles together, playing memory games, learning how to operate a technological device, etc.
Cognitive stimulation treatment and cognitive rehabilitation treatment are effective on the early or middle stages of dementia, and are very much dependent on the patient’s motivation and desire to improve. They are not very effective in severe cases, or when the patient is in an unstable emotional state.
How to prevent dementia
Most types of dementia are genetic, which means that if one of your family members is suffering from dementia, there is a greater likelihood of you suffering from the disease as well.
However, research shows that there are many factors that impact the creation of dementia, and the paces on which it progresses.
The most important things you can do to prevent, or lower the risk of suffering from dementia are:
- Eat healthy and avoid processed foods and sugars as much as possible
- Perform physical activity on a daily basis
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid large amounts of alcohol
- Perform mental exercises on a daily basis (riddles, logic games, trivia, etc.)
Caring for someone with dementia
Caring for someone with dementia can be challenging, and even heartbreaking if it is your partner or parent.
An important aspect of caring for someone with dementia is actually to make sure you, as the caretaker, receive the support that you need, so that you have the capacity to help them – this might involve taking part in a support group, talking to a therapist, or take a training course for caretaking.
As a caretaker, you will help the person who suffers from dementia both in the practical activities such as managing their time, doing groceries, and paying their bills and also in an emotional way – by staying calm, and not being affected by their mood changes and anxiety.
It is highly important to educate yourself as much as you can about the symptoms and the common progress of the disease so that you can recognize what is happening on time, and not take the person’s behavior personally.