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Dementia Treatments: Knowing Your Options

by Shannon, December 25, 2018

Living with a diagnosis of dementia can be challenging for both patients and their family members. When faced with the disease, though, it’s important to know your dementia treatment options. Regardless of the stage you are facing [https://blog.careindeed.com/dementia-how-does-this-disease-work], know that treatments can sometimes help minimize symptoms and help you navigate life with dementia.

While working closely with your physician or specialist to determine the best treatment, know that many factors play a part in how medical professionals decide upon the most efficient way to help you. For instance, your symptoms, results of a physical examination, interviews with family members and your medical history are all important factors to help determine dementia treatment options. 

Preliminary Testing

Before medical professionals proceed in recommending treatment options, ample testing must be completed to fully assess the stage of dementia patients are facing.

A few tests that are required include:

  • Cognitive and Neuropsychological Tests: During these tests, physicians measure thinking and language skills, ability to pay attention, reasoning, judgment, memory and orientation.
  • Brain Scans: In some cases, doctors may conduct a CT or MRI to look for evidence of bleeding, a stroke or a tumor. PET Scans also help doctors to see patterns of brain activity or identify if amyloid protein is present in the brain – a common factor with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Psychiatric Evaluation: If a dementia patient is exhibiting mental or emotional symptoms, a psychiatric evaluation may be conducted to see if depression or a mental condition is accelerating symptoms.
  • Lab Tests: Some physicians draw blood to determine if a physical problem is contributing to brain function. For example, lab tests may reveal an underactive thyroid gland, or a vitamin B-12 deficiency, according to the Mayo Clinic.
  • Neurological Evaluation: This type of test includes an evaluation of balance, reflexes, movement, visual perception and problem-solving abilities.

Medicinal Treatment Options

One option for dementia treatment includes medications prescribed by a physician. While medications cannot cure dementia, according to WebMD, the medications can help minimize the devastating effects of symptoms.

A few common medications include:

  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors: Medications such as galantamine, rivastigmine, and donepezil help to slow the breakdown of brain chemicals that assist with judgment and memory.
  • Antidepressants: Many dementia patients suffer from depression, especially when they understand that their brain function or physical ailments are present. Doctors prescribe antidepressants commonly to help improve mood and minimize irritability.
  • Antipsychotic Medications: When a dementia patient is exhibiting behaviors such as hallucinations, agitation, aggression and delusions, physicians may find the need to prescribe antipsychotic medicines such as risperidone, olanzapine, haloperidol and aripiprazole.
  • Memantine: This medicine is designed to help control brain chemicals that are crucial for language and memory.

Therapeutic Treatment Options

As the symptoms of dementia continue to inhibit movement, memory and mood, many caregivers and family members have opted to assist with therapeutic therapies for patients.

One of the primary types of therapy for dementia patients includes occupational therapy. An occupational therapist works with dementia patients to teach behaviors that can assist with living safely. For instance, occupational therapists help patients relearn how to do simple daily tasks while also working with families to suggest ways to rearrange furniture and household items that can cause fall hazards. An occupational therapist is also trained to help patients manage progression of the disease and cope with behavioral changes that occur.

Modifying your home’s environment is highly recommended as part of therapeutic treatment. For instance, if a dementia patient’s home is filled with clutter and trip hazards, it is time for a clean-up session. In addition, if your loved one is exhibiting aggressive or angry behaviors, it may also be necessary to assess the home for objects such as car keys, knives or weapons that need to be removed or hidden.

One innovative type of therapy includes having conversations that help to sharpen your loved one’s memory functions. Known as reminiscence therapy, this type of alternative treatment includes talking with dementia patients about hobbies, work, school and hometowns. Dementia patients are more likely to remember memories about the past and having these conversations can help boost memory function and improve the mood of your loved one who finally feels as if he or she can contribute to a conversation without confusion.

Music therapy has also become a popular way to cope with dementia. Simply listening to soothing music can create a calming atmosphere for a person who is agitated. In some cases, caregivers and family members adopt a pet to improve mood and behavior. Art therapy also helps dementia patients to focus on creativity.

Lifestyle Remedies for Treating Dementia Symptoms

Lifestyle changes will not rid your loved one of the disease; however, it could make him or her more comfortable while coping with the symptoms.

Consider these lifestyle remedies:

  • Maintain regular times for bed and meals
  • Expose the dementia patient to more sunlight
  • Adopt a daily exercise routine for the morning
  • Minimize or eliminate nicotine, caffeine and alcohol intake
  • Install night lights and guides to help with navigation
  • Enhance communication by making eye contact and speaking slowly
  • Use gestures as cues and point at objects to help understanding

Realistically, you may try all of these treatments and still notice that your loved one is progressing into more severe stages of dementia. The goal of treatment, though, is to keep him or her safe and supported, according to the Stanford School of Medicine.

It helps to find your loved one and yourself the support you need to cope with dementia treatment options and symptoms. Lean on caregivers, such as the qualified staff from Care Indeed, to help with daily living. Life with any type of dementia is challenging and learning how to accept the challenge is the first step in living life. While you may struggle with grief and loss when coping with the symptoms as a patient, caregiver or family member, the support you need is only a click away.

Care Indeed is committed to providing you the support and in-home caregivers who understand your challenges and daily struggles at work and home. Learn more about how to get the support you need while living with Dementia today.