Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Most types of dementia can't be cured. However, doctors will help you manage your symptoms. Treatment of dementia symptoms may help slow or minimize the development of symptoms.

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors. These medications — including donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon) and galantamine (Razadyne) — work by boosting levels of a chemical messenger involved in memory and judgment.

    Side effects can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Although primarily used to treat Alzheimer's disease, these medications may also treat vascular dementia, Parkinson's disease dementia and Lewy body dementia.

  • Memantine. Memantine (Namenda) works by regulating the activity of glutamate. Glutamate is another chemical messenger involved in brain functions, such as learning and memory. A common side effect of memantine is dizziness.

    Some research has shown that combining memantine with a cholinesterase inhibitor may have beneficial results.

  • Other medications. Your doctor may prescribe other medications to treat other symptoms or conditions, such as a sleep disorder.
  • Occupational therapy. Your doctor may suggest occupational therapy to help you adjust to living with dementia. Therapists may teach you coping behaviors and ways to adapt movements and daily living activities as your condition changes.

Therapies

Several dementia symptoms and behavior problems may be treated initially using nondrug approaches, such as:

  • Modifying the environment. Reducing clutter and distracting noise can make it easier for someone with dementia to focus and function. It also may reduce confusion and frustration.
  • Modifying your responses. A caregiver's response to a behavior can make the behavior, such as agitation, worse. It's best to avoid correcting and quizzing a person with dementia. Reassuring the person and validating his or her concerns can defuse most situations.
  • Modifying tasks. Break tasks into easier steps and focus on success, not failure. Structure and routine during the day also help reduce confusion in people with dementia.
Apr. 16, 2013