Senior Center

What Treatment Can Do for Dementia

By Daniel @ LivingSenior - April 29, 2012

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Since dementia is a symptom of another illness, there unfortunately are not many treatments available to reverse or stop the progression of these effects. While some dementias naturally reverse along with healing from particular curable conditions, most dementias are not “curable.” Rather, there are some medications and therapies that can help.

First and foremost, there are some prescription drugs now on the market to treat Alzheimer’s disease and progressive dementias. These are prescribed to many individuals, and while they do not stop or reverse brain damage that has already taken place, they can slow further progression and/or bring relief to symptoms including dementia. These pills were designed primarily to buy time – delay the admittance of a nursing home, ease the stress on a primary caregiver and to improve the quality of life to a patient. Researchers are continuously searching to see if these are useful in treating further forms of dementia.

While medication can be beneficial, much of dementia in its early to moderate stages may be improved upon through the regular practice of various tasks that are designed to enhance cognitive function. Memory aids are one example of this. Taking notes, playing brain teaser games and participating in mnemonics can all help with retaining cognitive function. And while it may sound archaic or severe, rewarding good behavior over bad also seems to work well in patients exhibiting signs of dementia. By ignoring the inappropriate actions that often result from dementia, a patient can be “trained” to behave more appropriately – which can help prevent dangerous situations at best, or at least help with social graces. Again, while this may seem a bit inhumane at times to “punish” someone for behavior partially out of their control, for a caregiver and other loved ones; it can make a world of difference. The patient too will enjoy feeling more “in control.”

Alzheimer’s medications are called cholinesterase inhibitors. They slow the destruction of a particular neurotransmitter, which dies more rapidly in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Drugs currently approved by the USDA are:

  • Cognex
  • Aricept
  • Exelon
  • Galantamine

These medications also go by their brand names (Cognex, Aricept, Exelon, Reminyl) and have been show to improve the memory and thought processes of particular patients. A fifth prescription, known by its brand name Namenda works a bit differently – it regulates the activity of a neurotransmitter and it is often paired with another medication of therapy to yield optimal results. This combination has been shown in at least one clinical trial to provide individuals with better cognition and everyday task completion capabilities than the prior four medications alone.

While a cure for Alzheimer’s and many other diseases that cause dementia are unfortunately a long way off, these medications and daily therapy techniques can bring a new quality of life to a patient and their friends & family who may have all but lost complete hope.

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