Most types of dementia can't be cured, but there are ways to manage your symptoms.
The following are used to temporarily improve dementia 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.
Although primarily used to treat Alzheimer's disease, these medications might also be prescribed for other dementias, including vascular dementia, Parkinson's disease dementia and Lewy body dementia.
Side effects can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Memantine. Memantine (Namenda) works by regulating the activity of glutamate, another chemical messenger involved in brain functions, such as learning and memory. In some cases, memantine is prescribed with a cholinesterase inhibitor.
A common side effect of memantine is dizziness.
- Other medications. Your doctor might prescribe medications to treat other symptoms or conditions, such as depression, sleep disturbances or agitation.
Several dementia symptoms and behavior problems might be treated initially using nondrug approaches, such as:
- Occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can show you how to make your home safer and teach coping behaviors. The purpose is to prevent accidents, such as falls; manage behavior; and prepare you for the dementia progression.
- Modifying the environment. Reducing clutter and noise can make it easier for someone with dementia to focus and function. You might need to hide objects that can threaten safety, such as knives and car keys. Monitoring systems can alert you if the person with dementia wanders.
- Modifying tasks. Break tasks into easier steps and focus on success, not failure. Structure and routine also help reduce confusion in people with dementia.
Several dietary supplements, herbal remedies and therapies have been studied for people with dementia. Some may be beneficial.
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.
Some alternative medicines for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia that have been studied include:
- Vitamin E. Evidence for taking vitamin E to slow Alzheimer disease is soft. Doctors warn against taking large doses of vitamin E because it may have a higher risk of mortality, especially in people with heart disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids. There is some evidence that eating fish three times a week might lower your risk of dementia.
However, in clinical studies, omega-3 fatty acids haven't significantly slowed cognitive decline in mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. More research is needed.
- Ginkgo. Although ginkgo is considered safe, study results have been inconsistent in determining whether ginkgo helps people with dementia.
The following techniques may help reduce agitation and promote relaxation in people with dementia.
- Music therapy, which involves listening to soothing music
- Pet therapy, which involves use of animals, such as visits from dogs, to promote improved moods and behaviors in people with dementia
- Aromatherapy, which uses fragrant plant oils
- Massage therapy
- Art therapy, which involves creating art, focusing on the process rather than the outcome