Treatment of dementia involves multi-pronged strategy that encompasses an accurate diagnosis of dementia, consideration of stage-specific challenges, non-pharmacological and pharmacological measures, and education, care and support for caregivers.
Presently, there is no cure for dementia.
There are, however, medications that may help to improve the symptoms of dementia such as mental and physical function, mood and behaviour and this in turn help reduce dependency and caregiver stress.
Hence, seeking expert opinion is important when one is suspected to have dementia so that timely and accurate diagnosis of dementia can be made for appropriate treatment that may help to delay progression and relieve symptoms of dementia.
There are also certain medical conditions, such as depression and delirium that may mimic dementia and these are potentially treatable hence early assessment by a dementia specialist is crucial.
Medications for dementia
Depending on one’s suitability based on the types and stages of dementia, medications that are available include:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors
- Examples: Donepezil (Aricept), Rivastigmine (Exelon)
- Mostly use for mild to moderate stages of dementia, and selective cases of advanced dementia
- Alternative for those who cannot tolerate cholinesterase inhibitor
Other medications that are used to help with mood and behavioural issues related to dementia depending on the needs are anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics and benzodiazepines.
All these dementia medications should only be considered after a thorough assessment by a dementia specialist.
Other strategies to manage person with dementia
Apart from medications, there are various ways that family members and caregivers can learn and adopt to provide support to person with dementia. Some of these include:
- Use of
memory aid such as calendars, list and whiteboards can be helpful in keeping the person functional.
Pictures are easier to remember.
- Set a
routine, so that it is easier if the person can continue the routines he/she has been used to for much of his/her life. Try to think of the things that your loved ones used to enjoy doing and try to keep them involved in some way. For instance, a homemaker may still enjoy folding laundry even if they are no longer able to operate the washing machine without help.
Music is helpful at all stages of dementia.
Social activities have shown to improve cognition, function and reduce behaviour and psychological symptoms in dementia. Encourage them to join family gatherings, group activities, and may consider dementia daycare.
Cognitively stimulating activities like aerobic exercises can improve memory, in addition to its beneficial effects on cardiovascular health and mood.
To learn more, you can
watch this video
- Clear and use simple sentences when talking to person with dementia
- Acknowledge his/her concerns
- Respectful and reassuring
- Engage to provide comfort and build trust
It is important to understand that a person with dementia has no control over their mind and behaviour and hence may behave in a particular way that is distressing to others.
Often times, their behaviour carries a meaning and understanding why they behave in a particular way will help to elucidate what may trigger the behaviour.
The principles to manage their behaviour are to:
Reassure - let the person know that they will be cared for and their wishes will be respected
Reconsider - consider how things look from the person’s point of view
Redirect - do not confront the person when they are wrong, frustrated or confused but distract them by moving to a different activity or topic of conversation
Looking after a person with dementia is a long journey. Always remember that part of your duty to your loved ones is to take good care of yourself.
There are many caregiver support group. To speak to someone who shares the same experience with you in the caregiver support group will allow you to get help from others and help others too.
- Dementia Singapore (Tel: 63770700)
- Project Angels (Tel: 6274 6904)
- TOUCH Caregivers Support (Tel: 6258 6797)
- Caregivers Alliance Limited (Tel: 6753 6578)
- Filos Community Services (Tel: 6242 5978)
- Caregiving Welfare Association (Tel: 6466 7957)