This most common of all dementia diseases has no cure but the treatment options are many. The treatment options are based on the symptoms and on maintaining for as long as possible the independence of the individual and in slowing down if possible the progressive nature of the disease giving the patient and his/her family precious time together.
The treatments address both the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of the disease. Each treatment should have the goal of improving the day-to-day function of the patient and to give the best quality of care possible.
Treatment options are often combined based on the presenting symptoms and how severe they are at the time. Treatment plans change because the symptoms progressively worsen and require reassessment on a regular basis.
The treatment plan should include educating all caregivers, family and close friends about the disease so that the patient can be made as comfortable as possible and in the least restrictive environment as possible that still addresses safety issues.
Research is being done to improve the treatments and involves clinical trials that offer new drugs. Doctors are usually made aware of these trials as they become available.
There are both medicated treatments and non-medicated treatments that are used in all 3 stages of the disease. Alternative treatments are often added to the treatment plan as needed and may include therapeutic activities such as physical and occupational therapy, exercise and diet management, psychiatric therapy, relaxation techniques, acupuncture, and pet therapy.
Due to the cognitive nature of some of the symptoms part of the treatment has to include teaching the family members and caregivers how to communicate with the individuals as the disease progresses.
The individual will eventually lose all ability to communicate so it is vital that caregivers grasp an early understanding of the preferences in care of the individual so that respect can be given at a time when the patient is unable to voice opinions or give choices.
Using reality therapy, validation therapy and redirection can enhance such communication. It is also necessary that caregivers and other family members and friends learn how to give memory clues in the mild and moderate stages of the disease where appropriate to help the individual communicate and participate as much as possible with family members and friends.
Treatment options should include structure and consistency of routines because this is what addresses the symptoms the most and will make the individual the most comfortable.
As the disease progresses into the final stage it is important to keep the patient comfortable and to address the physical decline that will be present. The individual will experience difficulty swallowing, may not be able to sit or stand and will be incontinent of bowel and bladder habits. Treatment plans will need to reflect these changes.
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