Dementia Treatments for Seniors
How to treat dementia? There is not an easy answer for a progressive disease. First, a proper diagnosis is needed. That, in itself, may be difficult. Secondly, treatment for dementia behaviors may include a combination of therapies, behavior management strategies, and medication. So there is not a single solution for a specific senior. Doctors generally agree it’s best to try non-drug strategies for difficult dementia behaviors first.
Dementia medications: The proper mix can temporarily relieve and manage dementia symptoms related to memory and cognitive function. The following are well known medications.
— Cholinesterase inhibitors, including donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), and galantamine (Razadyne). These generally help to improve memory and judgment in dementia patients. However, there are some side effects of cholinesterase inhibitors, including: weight loss and digestive problems, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
— Memantine (Namenda, Ebixa) helps protect against further brain cell damage in patients with vascular dementia. This drug regulates glutamate, a chemical messenger in the brain associated with learning and memory. Dizziness can be a common side effect of memantine. Aggression may also worsen with this drug.
Some people with dementia may need other drugs to treat symptoms and behaviors, such as sleep aids, anti-anxiety drugs, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics. However, these medications may have serious side effects.
Depression: If one or both of your aging parents suffers from depression, the primary physician may recommend behavioral therapy, medications, or a combination of both.
Dementia sleep problems: This can be very difficult to correct in seniors. Home Care Partners has had cases where the senior goes to bed at 11pm, and wakes up two hours later. Some behavior and environmental changes can help improve sleep in people with dementia. Encourage your elderly parents to be physically active and limit daytime naps for better rest at night. A soothing environment and calm routine before bedtime may also help.
If these strategies don’t work, the doctor may prescribe medications. However, side effects from sleep-inducing medications can increase confusion and the risk of falls in people with dementia.
Agitation and aggression can be caused by many things, including pain, depression, sleep disorders, hallucinations, or side effects of medications. Treating the cause of your elderly parent‘s symptoms may help, so it’s important to talk about aggressive behaviors with the doctor.
In some cases, redirecting and responding in a calm manner may help. Regular physical activity, pet therapy, and music therapy may also alleviate agitation and aggression in dementia patients. However, in some cases, antipsychotic medication is needed.
The proper combination of presecription meds and behavior therapies may slow cognitive decline and improve quality of life for seniors with dementia.
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John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions.
Phone: (781) 378-2164