Dementia
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Treatments

Drugs to specifically treat some progressive versions of dementia are now available. Although these drugs do not halt the disease or reverse existing brain damage, they can improve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. This may improve an individual’s quality of life, ease the burden on caregivers, or delay admission to a nursing home. Many researchers are also examining whether these drugs may be useful for treating other types of dementia. Many people with dementia, particularly those in the early stages, may benefit from practicing tasks designed to improve performance in specific aspects of cognitive functioning. For example, people can sometimes be taught to use memory aids, such as mnemonics, computerized recall devices, or note taking.

There are many disorders that can cause dementia. Some of the causes of dementia can be halted or reversed with appropriate treatment. People with moderate or advanced dementia typically need round-the-clock care and supervision to prevent them from harming themselves or others. They also may need assistance with daily activities such as eating, bathing, and dressing.

Medications

There are a few drugs used to treat symptoms of the disease. They may help maintain thinking, memory, and speaking skills and help with some behavioral problems for a limited time. These drugs work by regulating certain chemicals in the brain.

For people with mild or moderate dementia, donepezil (Aricept®), rivastigmine (Exelon®), or galantamine (Razadyne®) may help prevent some symptoms from becoming worse for a limited time. Although these drugs do not halt the disease or reverse existing brain damage, they can improve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. This may improve an individual’s quality of life, ease the burden on caregivers, or delay admission to a nursing home. Another drug, memantine (Namenda®), is used to treat symptoms of moderate to severe Alzheimer's, although it is also limited in its effects.

All of these drugs have possible side effects, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. You should report any unusual symptoms to a doctor right away. It is important to follow a doctor's instructions when taking any medication.

Some medicines and other non-drug approaches can help control the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. These symptoms include sleeplessness, agitation, wandering, anxiety, anger, and depression. Treating these symptoms often makes patients more comfortable and makes their care easier for caregivers. In some cases, medications may be needed to control behavior problems caused by the onset of dementia. These medications can include: Stimulants, Mood stabilizers, and Anti-psychotics. 

Therapies

Family members and friends can help people with mild dementia continue their daily routines, physical activities, and social contacts. They should be kept up-to-date about the details of their lives, such as the time of day, where they live, and what is happening at home or in the world.

Many people with dementia, particularly those in the early stages, may benefit from practicing tasks designed to improve performance in specific aspects of cognitive functioning. For example, people can sometimes be taught to use memory aids, such as mnemonics, computerized recall devices, or note taking. Memory aids may help some people who have mild dementia with day-to-day living. A big calendar, a list of daily plans, notes about simple safety measures, and written directions describing how to use common household items can be useful.