There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s at the present time, although there are some treatments that may slow the progress of the disease. Researchers continue to look for new treatments to improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s and to help reverse the affects. In the meantime, drug and non-drug treatments may help with both cognitive and behavioural symptoms.
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The goals of treatment are to:
- Slow the rate of decline.
- Treat other factors that might make confusion worse.
- Ensure the person is living the best life possible.
- Your doctor will recommend a mix of treatment options which best suits you and your carers.
Psychosocial treatments (therapy)
These are non-medical treatments (often called talking therapies or psychotherapy) involving a trained professional who teaches techniques such as behavioural management techniques for caregivers, and validation therapy for the person with Alzheimer’s.
Medication, including antipsychotics, antidepressants and tranquillisers, is sometimes used in treating the complications of dementia. Although drugs cannot stop dementia or reverse existing brain damage, they can improve symptoms and slow its progression. There are also medicines that can help a little with forgetfulness and confusion. But they don’t work for everyone. Caregivers should be told what effects the medication may have and receive clear instructions about how they should be taken and what precautions are necessary.
The term complementary therapy is generally used to indicate therapies and treatments that differ from conventional western medicine and that may be used to complement and support it.
Certain complementary therapies may enhance your life and help you to maintain wellbeing. In general, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, yoga, exercise, relaxation, massage, mirimiri and aromatherapy have all been shown to have some effect in alleviating mental distress.
When considering taking any supplement, herbal or medicinal preparation you should consult your doctor to make sure it is safe and will not harm your health, for example, by interacting with any other medications you are taking.
Full time care
At some point it’s likely that that you will need full-time care, in a specialised residential care facility. It may help to prepare for this in good time. Even if you think you are able to cope for a while yet.
People who engage in intellectual activities such as reading, playing board games, completing crossword puzzles, playing musical instruments, or regular social interaction show a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease. This is compatible with the cognitive reserve theory, which states that some life experiences result in more efficient neural functioning providing the individual a cognitive reserve that delays the onset of dementia manifestations. Education delays the onset of AD syndrome, but is not related to earlier death after diagnosis. Learning a second language even later in life seems to delay getting Alzheimer disease. Physical activity is also associated with a reduced risk of AD.
See also: “Alzheimer Recommendations and Considerations“
People who eat a healthy, Japanese, or Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of AD. A Mediterranean diet may improve outcomes in those with the disease. Those who eat a diet high in saturated fats and simple carbohydrates (mono- and disaccharide) have a higher risk. The mediterranean diet’s beneficial cardiovascular effect has been proposed as the mechanism of action.
Conclusions on dietary components have at times been difficult to ascertain as results have differed between population-based studies and randomised controlled trials. There is limited evidence that light to moderate use of alcohol. Particularly red wine, is associated with lower risk of AD. There is tentative evidence that caffeine may be protective. A number of foods high in flavonoids such as cocoa, red wine, and tea may decrease the risk of AD.
Reviews on the use of vitamins and minerals have not found enough consistent evidence to recommend them. This includes vitamin A, C, E, selenium, zinc, and folic acid with or without vitamin B12. Additionally vitamin E is associated with health risks. Trials examining folic acid (B9) and other B vitamins failed to show any significant association with cognitive decline. In those already affected with AD adding docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, to the diet has not been found to slow decline.