There is at present no cure for dementia. But there are medicines and other treatments that can help with dementia symptoms. Two of the most commonly prescribed medicines for dementia are cholinesterase inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors or memantine or also called Namenda. Doctors use these mainly to treat the symptoms, however there are other alternative treatments also
Medicines to treat dementia
Most of the medications available are used to treat Alzheimer's disease as this is the most common form of dementia. They can help to temporarily reduce symptoms. The following medicines are used to temporarily improve dementia symptoms and they work by boosting levels of a chemical message.
The main medicines are:
These medicines prevent an enzyme from breaking down a substance called acetylcholine in the brain, which helps nerve cells communicate with each other.
Donepezil (also known as Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon) and galantamine (Reminyl) are used to treat the symptoms of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Donepezil is also used to treat more severe Alzheimer's disease.
Memantine (also known as Namenda) is given to people with moderate or severe Alzheimer’s disease. It is suitable for those who can’t take or are unable to tolerate acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. It works by blocking the effects of an excessive amount of a chemical in the brain called glutamate.
Side effects can include headaches, dizziness and constipation, but these are usually only temporary.
Medicines to treat challenging behaviour
In the later stages of dementia, a significant number of people will develop what is known as behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD). The symptoms of BPSD can include:
Cognitive Stimulation Therapy
CST involves taking part in group activities and exercises designed to improve:
This technique involves working with a trained professional, such as an occupational therapist and a relative or friend to achieve a personal goal, or to complete an everyday task. Cognitive rehabilitation works by getting you to use parts of your brain that are working to help build up strength on the parts that are not working. In the early stages of dementia, it can help to use this treatment to cope better with the condition.
Reminiscence and your life story
Reminiscence work involves talking about things and events from your past. It usually involves using props such as photos, favourite possessions or music.
Life story work involves a compilation of photos, notes and keepsakes from your childhood to the present day. It can be either a physical book or a digital version.
These approaches are sometimes combined. Evidence shows that they can improve mood and wellbeing. They also help you and those around you to focus on your skills and achievements rather than on your dementia.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Dementia symptoms and behavioural problems will progress over time. These are some suggestions a family member of carer might try at home:
Several dietary supplements, herbal remedies and therapies have been studied for people with dementia. But at this time there is no convincing evidence for any of these.
Use caution when considering taking dietary supplements, vitamins or herbal remedies, especially if you're taking other medications. These remedies aren't regulated, and claims about their benefits aren't always based on scientific research.
While some studies suggest that vitamin E supplements may be helpful for Alzheimer's disease, the evidence is not convincing and large doses may pose risks. Vitamin E supplementation is not currently recommended, but including vitamin E in the diet through foods such as nuts is suggested to promote brain health.
Care and support for the person with the disease
Here are some suggestions you can try to help yourself cope with the disease: