No treatment is currently available that can stop or cure dementia. However, new medications are available that can improve memory and delay the progression of the illness.
Developing new treatments for dementia is an active area of research. Scientists are testing a number of new medications and we hope to have a cure soon.
Treatments are available for behavioural difficulties in dementia. Occupational therapists can also help to improve functioning in the early stages of the illness. Together with medication, the use of external memory aids can contribute meaningfully to improve quality of life.
Family members, spouse, and friends (caregivers) are extremely important in the proper management of people with dementia. The quality of life of the caregiver, to a large extent, determines the quality of life of the person.
Caregiver emotions take a roller-coaster ride during the illness and it is important that they are aware of this, so that they can manage their own emotions. One of the best ways to cope with this illness is for caregivers to learn as much as possible about the illness.
The management of emotional changes and behavioural difficulties can present a problem. Caregivers should familiarise themselves with the strategies that are available. In many instances it may be better to manage these difficulties without the help of medication. Medication can cause sedation that may in turn have an adverse effect on memory functioning.
Written by Dr Frans Hugo, MBChB, M.Med Psychiatry and Dr L. Van Wyk, MBChB, M. Med (Psych) from the Panorama Memory Clinic
Reviewed by Dr Michael S. Mason, MB ChB, FC Psych (South Africa), Consultant Psychiatrist in Private Practice at Panorama Psychiatry and Memory Clinic, September 2011