Treatments for Dementia


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Treatment of Dementia: medical news summaries: The following medical news items are relevant to treatment of Dementia:

Treatments of Dementia discussion: Treatment must be directed at the underlying cause(s) of the dementia. So, the first step in management is to identify the contributing factors responsible for the dementia syndrome. Then, each contributing factor can be treated or managed. Initially, treatment usually includes a combination of medications, behavioral strategies, and environmental interventions. In the early stages of dementia family interventions and education are foremost. As the disease progresses, treatment generally shifts to include management of disruptive behaviors and can include drug and non-drug interventions.

There are drugs available to enhance cognition in Alzheimer's disease, to reduce stroke risk in-patients with vascular dementia, and to treat depression in-patients (often part of a dementia syndrome.) The few drugs available have limited efficacy, but more drugs are in development. Drug therapies are almost universally required at some point in the progression of a dementia syndrome, however, for the management of the many side effects and neurophsychiatric problems that arise in these patients (e.g., depression, anxiety attacks, psychosis, agitation, etc.). Psychotherapy and counseling may be important not only for the patient, but also for the family and other caregivers. Placement for temporary respite care or permanent institutional care may be required, although the majority of patients may be managed at home with appropriate in-home support. There is even surgical treatment available for the rare patients who have a surgically remediable cause of dementia, such as normal pressure hydrocephalus or chronic subdural hematomas. 1

Even if the doctor diagnoses an irreversible form of dementia, much still can be done to treat the patient and help the family cope. A person with dementia should be under a doctor's care, and may see a neurologist, psychiatrist, family doctor, internist, or geriatrician. The doctor can treat the patient's physical and behavioral problems and answer the many questions that the person or family may have. 2

Many people with dementia need no medication for behavioral problems. But for some people, doctors may prescribe medications to reduce agitation, anxiety, depression, or sleeping problems. These troublesome behaviors are common in people with dementia. Careful use of doctor-prescribed drugs may make some people with dementia more comfortable and make caring for them easier.

A healthy diet is important. Although no special diets or nutritional supplements have been found to prevent or reverse Alzheimer's disease or multi-infarct dementia, a balanced diet helps maintain overall good health. In cases of multi-infarct dementia, improving the diet may play a role in preventing more strokes. 2

Footnotes:
1. excerpt from DEMENTIA: NWHIC
2. excerpt from Forgetfulness It's Not Always What You Think - Age Page - Health Information: NIA

Last revision: July 1, 2003

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