A Brief Look at Treatments for Dementia and Alzheimer’s
Maybe one day a doctor will perform a routine brain scan as part of a patient’s normal medical check-up, notice the very early stages of dementia, and prescribe the patient a medication tailored to their genome that will halt the disease in its tracks. Better yet, perhaps we all will receive Alzheimer’s inoculations at the age of 50 so that Alzheimer’s becomes nothing but a note in the history books, like tuberculosis, chicken pox, and polio.
That day is still in the future. Today, we live in a world where there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s and age-related dementia. If you or a loved one has recently received a diagnosis, one of your first thoughts might be something like, How can we stop this, or at least slow the progression?
Alzheimer’s and dementia treatment can be broken down into three board categories: medication, therapy, and non-traditional/holistic treatment.
Medical Treatments for Dementia and Alzheimer’s
Medical researchers are making continual gains in understanding Alzheimer’s, and you’d better believe that drug companies are plowing huge amounts of money into finding a drug that will prevent the disease. None of this helps you or a family member who has received the dreaded diagnosis. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are no FDA approved medical treatments that can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s. The current medications on the market only work to manage the symptoms of the disease.
Most of the medications currently approved by the FDA to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia fall into a drug category known as “cholinesterase inhibitors.” These medications can help slow the symptoms of memory loss, confusion, and difficulty with reasoning in some people in the early to middle stages of Alzheimer’s. Your doctor may suggest drugs such as: Aricept, Exelon, or Razadyne.
The second category of drugs, “memantine” is designed to improve memory, attention, and language skills in people with moderate to advanced Alzheimer’s. Currently, this category contains only one FDA-approved drug: Namzaric.
One of the cruelest aspects of Alzheimer’s and dementia is that the disease can dramatically change a person’s personality. Your grandmother, who was once the sweetest woman in the world may suddenly become aggressive, verbally abusive, and even violent. If certain emotional and behavioral symptoms become detrimental to a person’s health, a doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medications, anti-depressants, or even antipsychotics.
Therapeutic Treatments for Dementia and Alzheimer’s
A pill isn’t always the answer or at least the total answer in treating dementia and Alzheimer’s. At Sunshine Care, we strongly believe in and support a variety of therapeutic programs. Cognitive therapy, for example, can help your loved one exercise their brain. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Participating in games, crossword puzzles and other activities in which people are using thinking (cognitive) skills may help slow mental decline in people with dementia.” We regularly hold board game nights and have recently launched our well-received Older, Wiser Learners program (OWLS).
Cognitive therapy is only one form of therapy that you can try. Exercise therapy is another good option, as it increases physical health and may slow progression of memory loss. At Sunshine Care, we offer residents a highly developed horticulture therapy program and also incorporate music therapy and pet therapy into our programming.
Non-Traditional/Holistic Treatments for Dementia and Alzheimer’s
It won’t take you much Googling on dementia treatments to start coming across blog posts, forum posts, and websites devoted to non-traditional treatments, such as Vitamin E, coconut oil, omega-3 fatty acids, caprylic acid, and others. Many people believe that these supplements can slow memory loss, but anecdotes are plentiful while scientific evidence is lacking. In many cases, these supplements won’t hurt you or your loved one if taken in safe proportions, but you should always speak with your doctor before adding new supplements to your diet or the diet of a loved one.
No Magic Bullet
In the wake of a scary diagnosis like Alzheimer’s or dementia, the temptation to search high and low for a magic cure is understandable. Medical science is making progress, but we just aren’t quite there yet. At Sunshine Care, we meet a lot of family who are still struggling with this diagnosis, and our best advice is to focus on the situation as it is. Rather than searching the internet for miracle cures, it’s time to accept, acknowledge, and do what you can with the knowledge and resources available.
All is not lost! Your mother may act a little differently sometimes, but she isn’t gone. You still have many adventures ahead and memories that you can remember for the both of you.
Need support? You are invited to join our monthly Support Group For Caregivers & Families affected by Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Click here for more details….
Categories: Memory Care