Treatment Options Available for Dementia

It’s wrong to refer to dementia as a disease or think it’s a part of the ageing process or senility. Rather, it’s a group of symptoms that affect memory, reasoning, ability to focus and communicate, social abilities as well as visual perceptions of events. It’s a mental disability that is sometimes severe enough to interfere with daily life as it progresses. People with dementia have problems with short-term memory and this memory loss has different etiologies with Alzheimer’s being the most common cause (about 60-80%). Depending on the cause of the memory loss, some dementia symptoms can be reversed.

Dementias start off slowly and get worse over time; early evaluation and diagnosis may throw up an entirely different cause which could be a treatable condition. Dementia is basically caused by damage to the brain cells which interferes with their ability to communicate with one another; when there are lapses in communication between the cells, thinking, behavior, communication and feelings are all affected.

Treating underlying conditions: Dementia cannot be reversed unless it is caused by some underlying medical conditions; reversing these conditions can then lead to an improvement in dementia symptoms. Examples of such underlying medical conditions include vitamin B12 deficiency, hypothyroidism, certain medications side-effects, addictions, depression, encephalitis, brain tumors, etc. The above mentioned conditions can be easily treated as medications and surgeries exist for all of them, so that’s one way of treating reversible dementias.

Medications: Many medications that are used to treat Alzheimer’s can also be used for treating dementia as these medicines work by boosting brain functions such as the levels of chemical messengers involved in learning, memory and making judgments. Other prescription medications that can be used include meds for depression, sleep disturbances or agitation.

Non-drug therapies: Initial symptoms and behavioral problems can be treated by non-drug therapies including occupational therapy, modifying the patient’s environment as well as modifying the patient’s tasks. All these activities eventually train the patient to be able to cope up with the dementia as it progresses, by making the environment safer and breaking down chores into simpler tasks so they can complete them successfully.

Alternative medications: Many proponents of alternative medications have claims of being able to ‘cure’ dementia through the use of herbal medicines, supplements and various therapies. While there is no harm in trying them out, you need to make cautious judgments on what to follow and what not to. Vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acids have been subject to studies for treatment of Alzheimer’s with indications that consuming fish three times a week might actually be beneficial in slowing down cognitive decline.

Relaxing therapies: To reduce agitation and inculcate peace of mind, music therapy, aroma therapy, massage therapy or even art therapies have been recommended for these patients.

Palliative care: is the need of the hour for dementia patients; since not much can be done to cure this condition, the next best thing is to make the patient’s life as comfortable as possible with compassion and caring kindness.

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