The worsening of the cognition of a person living with dementia may interfere with their activities of daily living and result in changes to their behaviours and emotions. The person’s personality may appear to have changed and become “very different from their ‘old self’”.
The main objectives of managing dementia symptoms are typically to:
• Improve the quality of life of persons living with dementia;
• Maximise or maintain their functional independence;
• Minimise any behavioural and/or emotional changes; and
• Minimise family caregivers’ stress.1
When it comes to dealing with almost any kind of illness or disease, medical intervention, especially in the form of drugs and medicines, are what we often turn to first. It is no different for dementia. A person diagnosed with dementia may ask questions like “Is there any medicine I can take to get better?” While there is currently no medicine that can completely cure dementia, there are treatments to help alleviate some of the symptoms that occur with dementia.
It has been suggested that for persons living with dementia, non-pharmacological interventions should be the first course of action as they work better and carry less risk when it comes to treating common symptoms such as irritability, agitation, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, aggression, apathy, and delusions. Some examples of non-pharmacological approaches include regular structured routine, good sleep hygiene, and reminiscence.1
In conclusion, effective and holistic intervention plans for persons living with dementia often require an integration of pharmacological and non-pharmacological (also termed as “psychosocial”) approaches.
In the following video, Dr. Chen Shiling of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital shares about why there is more to dementia treatment than just drugs. She raises three aspects of treatment and shares her past experiences that helped her understand how to care for a loved one living with dementia.