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Treating Dementia: Medications, Lifestyle and Therapies

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If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, you may experience information overload trying to understand all the treatment options. While there is currently no cure for dementia, there are a variety of dementia treatments available to your loved one. Those treating dementia should focus on delaying the progress of the disease by keeping symptoms stable for as long as possible. Additionally, dementia treatments strive to reduce troublesome symptoms and enable your loved one to live as comfortably as they can. Available dementia treatments depend on your loved one’s stage of dementia, their symptoms, and the type of dementia they have.

Treating dementia can include:

Treating dementia: Medications for memory loss.

Currently, there are two major classes of memory loss medications, cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine. Both treat cognitive symptoms of dementia, such as memory loss, disorientation, and problems with thinking. These medications help maintain proper levels of the chemicals needed to keep brain cells functioning and communicating with each other. Results vary, but in some cases the use of these medications can temporarily slow the progression of the disease. These medications are typically used to treat Alzheimer’s, but may be helpful in other forms of dementia.

Treating dementia: Lifestyle remedies.

hen you are considering dementia treatments, keep in mind that lifestyle remedies are often just as important as medications. This includes maintaining a calm and peaceful environment for your loved one. Help your parent establish a routine for daily living. Routines bring a comforting sense of predictability and control at a confusing time. Encourage your parent to set up reminder systems if they have trouble remembering tasks. A note on the fridge can remind them to feed the cat, while a simple chart helps track medications taken. In later stages of dementia, focus on keeping your loved one comfortable – not too hot or cold, hungry or thirsty. Physical comfort is key to helping someone with dementia stay as content as possible, especially if they have trouble communicating.

Limit visitors and excess noise if they seem to aggravate your loved one. Many patients with dementia will experience irritability or personality changes; do your best not to take these symptoms personally. For this reason, many assisted living communities and memory care units throughout Los Angeles limit visiting hours to avoid seniors from being triggered by activity too early or too late in the day.

Exercise can improve mood and symptoms such as fatigue, so encourage Mom to head out for a walk with you. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities can help strengthen anyone’s mind. Dad might enjoy doing a crossword puzzle or watching a trivia show with his grandkids. Books on tape are another great option, especially if reading has become difficult.

Treating dementia: Management of underlying conditions.

In some types of dementia, particularly vascular dementia, treating underlying conditions can slow the progress of the disease. If the dementia has been caused or exacerbated by a condition such as high blood pressure, treating that condition may at least temporarily slow symptoms. And, of course, anything you can do to improve your loved one’s health will contribute to their overall well-being.

Treating dementia: Therapies.

Various therapies have earned a place in treating dementia. Occupational therapy focuses on helping the patient maintain the skills needed to care for themselves as long as possible. An occupational therapist can also help you with make your loved one’s home safer for them. They can teach you how to prevent falls and wandering, for example. Music therapy has proven to be especially helpful as a dementia treatment. The ability to remember and participate in musical activities such as singing often persists into later stages of dementia. If your loved one is an animal lover, pet therapy is another great option to consider.

Treating dementia: Medication for behavior.

If the above measures fail to provide adequate relief of dementia symptoms, behavioral medications are available. These are usually used in moderate to severe cases of dementia, and only under careful supervision by your loved one’s doctor. Behavioral medications used in dementia treatment can include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and antipsychotic drugs.

Be willing to experiment to find the combination of dementia treatments that will your parent. Most of all, don’t try to go through your loved one’s dementia treatment alone. Accept all offers of help that come your way, and don’t be afraid to ask if people don’t offer. If your loved one’s care becomes more than you can handle, consider home health care or an assisted living facility. Caring for your loved one with dementia should not be a solo activity.

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