When we think of dementia, we think of memory loss and the confusion and frustration that comes along with it. But dementia, and Alzheimer’s in particular, is actually a lot more than just cognitive difficulties. Behavioral and psychological issues are also rampant amongst those with dementia. These things can include agitation, depression, anxiety, hallucinations, wandering, and insomnia, to name some of the more common ones. Although they are observed by the families of those people who suffer from Alzheimer’s, it is usually just assumed that they are part of the package. Unfortunately, this can lead to a lack of adequate treatment for someone with Alzheimer’s over the long run.
Many of the non-cognitive aspects of Alzheimer’s are often overlooked or ignored because memory loss and confusion are such prominent signs of the disease. However, these symptoms can sometimes be visible earlier than the memory loss and act as warnings that your loved one needs medical attention earlier. Even though there is not a cure for Alzheimer’s, the earlier that it is addressed by doctors, the higher the likelihood that the disease can be managed effectively for a longer period of time. That goes for the non-cognitive side of things, too.
But even though these symptoms are often under-recognized, they are also some of the more problematic parts of treating Alzheimer’s. The tough part of all of this is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any treatment methods for people suffering from these “other” symptoms of dementia when they are also being treated with dementia. There are treatments available, but they are what are considered to be “off label” treatments, and don’t have the backing of the larger medical community. This can include homeopathic and alternative treatments, or it can include non-pharmacological solutions, like validation therapy. Focusing on the validity of those emotions with someone who has dementia can help them to manage them better, even if their cognitive faculties are not in peak condition. Rather than responding negatively, soothing talk, validation of emotions, and empathy toward the person and their difficulties, have been shown to be more effective than medical based treatments.
This is one of the things that the Alzheimer’s Association recommends for helping those suffering from non-cognitive symptoms. Separating the person from what’s upsetting them, checking for physical pain or illness, and regular physical exercise can also be quite helpful. These things might not be easy when someone has Alzheimer’s, but they can be very helpful at reducing those psychological symptoms. Exercise can help someone to be mentally healthy when they are completely healthy from a physical and cognitive standpoint, and it can help those dealing with dementia, too.
Having a caregiver on your side that understands and has experience with these things can go a long way toward helping an elderly loved one with dementia. If you have questions about in-home care or memory care, we can help. At Paradise In-Home Care, we have trained caregivers that specialize in memory care. Get in touch with us today for more information.