Dementia is a progressive disease, and while there is significant positive news about new treatments available, there is not yet a cure.
Depending on the type and stage of dementia, medication and treatment plans are available to support those living with dementia to maintain a good quality of life. In some cases, medication may slow the progress of dementia itself. If you have recently received a diagnosis of dementia, then reassessing your future can feel daunting and even overwhelming, particularly when faced with decisions on medication and treatment plans. It is important that you speak to a health professional about any concerns you have around medication. If you feel you’d benefit from additional support navigating the dementia journey, our Wayfinding Team offers 1-2-1 guidance for both individuals and families.
Can medication support people with dementia?
The short answer to this is yes, there are specific types of dementia that studies have shown respond well to medication, particularly in early to mid-stage dementia. People living with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, may find that appropriate medication improves their quality of life. In some circumstances medication may also be prescribed for other forms of dementia, such as mixed, vascular or Lewy Body dementia.
However, everyone is unique in their response to dementia, as well as their response to the medication used to treat it. This can mean that no two individuals will react in the same way. That being said, outside pharmaceutical intervention, there is plenty you can do to continue living well alongside a dementia diagnosis. Some of these suggestions have even been shown to slow the progress of dementia, without the need for medical intervention:
Meditation and mindfulness
Healthy eating and lifestyle
If you’d like to investigate what activities are on offer at Sage House, you can look at our activities programme here.
If I’m prescribed medication, what will it do?
Again this does very much depend on the individual, but as well as slowing the progress of the dementia, specific medications can be used to improve:
General daily life
Is there a downside?
Having prescription medication to improve one’s quality of life can be a big advantage. However, before accepting treatment for dementia, it’s really important to consider both the advantages and drawbacks.
Unfortunately, like many medications, those available to treat dementia may cause side-effects or may not be recommended alongside any other medication you may be taking. It’s crucial to discuss with your healthcare professional, the best course of treatment for your situation. Here are some of the side-effects that people taking dementia medication have reported:
diarrhoea, nausea and/or vomiting
loss of appetite
Your healthcare professional will often start with a lower dose to minimise the risk of side-effects, increasing it gradually as needed to ensure that it is tolerated.
Staying safe with medication
The very nature of dementia, especially as it progresses, can make it harder to use medication safely. Memory loss, changes to routine and even trouble swallowing can all make it more challenging for someone living with dementia. If you’re concerned about your ability to manage the medication you’ve been prescribed, or if you’re worried for a loved one, here are some helpful tips on staying safe:
Consider using visual reminders like a wall chart or a label stuck to where you store your medication.
Use a pill organiser with separate compartments for times of day and days of the week – this will help you to see what you’ve had and not had. Timed medication dispensers are also available.
You could add alarms or alerts on your phone or smart speaker.
There are apps available through your smartphone which can prompt you to take your medication on time.
As dementia progresses care calls can be arranged to administer medication safely.
If you’re struggling to swallow your tablets, or are finding staying on top of your prescriptions difficult, reach out to your GP or a member of our Wayfinding Team. They can point you in the right direction and offer valuable advice on other options available.
As with every form of medical intervention, it’s good practice to ensure you’ve considered any possible side-effects carefully and discussed both them and your treatment plan with professionals and your loved ones. Even if your specific symptoms may not be treatable with medication there are many ways you can protect your quality of life and continue to live well, alongside a dementia diagnosis.