With a growing elderly population, an area of pharmaceutical research that is bustling with activity is treatment for dementia. While medication remains the first-line defense for physicians, there are many alternatives and complementary regimens that may enhance--or exceed--pharmaceutical protocols. This article will examine some of these alternatives, many of which may be easier to implement than medication therapies. However, it must be remembered that these alternatives are most often in conjunction with--not instead of--known and experimental pharmaceutical treatment regimens.
There are many alternatives available--so many, in fact, that dementia treatment alternatives have become a target for scam artists who sell devices or programs that supposedly help patients with dementia...but are no more effective than placebos or doing nothing. Do not be turned off, though; there are many complementary and alternative therapies out there that are helpful. The trick here is to always work with your primary medical professional in determining what valid alternatives may assist you in your dementia journey or that of the person for whom you provide care--using a supposedly complementary therapy that interacts negatively with primary treatments is worse than doing nothing at all.
Although not fully comprehensive, the following list includes alternative treatments that may provide some benefit to dementia sufferers:
Ayurvedic medicine (holistic medicine)
Balneotherapy (using water for therapeutic purposes)
Reiki Healing (energy healing)
Perhaps one of the easiest--and generally cost-effective--alternative regimens that may help dementia patients is a focus on positive lifestyle changes. Having part of treatment being healthy eating, exercise (as possible), and other positive lifestyle changes improves other treatments, both medicinal and alternative. By improving lifestyle components, a patient may live a fuller and healthier life--even retard the progression of dementia. Some of these lifestyle changes include:
Weight (loss for obese people, gain for underweight people)
Eliminate alcoholic beverages
Stress management & relaxation techniques
Cognitive & mental stimulation exercises
Appropriate level of exercise
Healthy rest and sleep
Balancing and coordination disciplines (yoga, tai-chi, danccing,etc.)
Reduction of processed sugars
Vitamin & mineral supplements (based on physician recommendations)
Detoxification (eliminating built-up toxins in the body)
So, then...this seems great, right? Well, remember what was mentioned in the first couple articles in this series: Every individual's dementia journey is as unique as is the individual. Some things may work for one person, but then not work for another. The key to success, beyond your personal motivation and dedication, is to work with your medical and alternative treatment providers to ensure that your treatment regimen is optimized for your unique journey.
Lists in this article adapted from Earlstein, F. (2016). Dementia Facts & Information. NRB Publishing: Nevada.