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module menu icon Managing Dementia

You should have already read part 1 of this module which explained about dementia and its causes and symptoms. If you haven't completed part 1, you can click here to access this module. We will now look at how dementia can be managed and how to support patients.

At present there is no cure for dementia, but medicines and other treatments may help manage dementia symptoms.

Medicines to treat dementia

Most medicines available are used to treat Alzheimer, as it’s the most common form of dementia. Helping to temporarily reduce symptoms.

The main medicines used are:

  • Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors - Act by preventing an enzyme from breaking down a substance called acetylcholine in the brain, helping nerve cells communicate with each other. Examples include donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine. Side effects can include nausea and loss of appetite, but these usually get better after two weeks of taking the medication.
  • Memantine - Works by blocking the effects of an excessive amount of a chemical in the brain called glutamate. It’s suitable for those who can't take or are unable to tolerate acetylcholinesterase inhibitors. Side effects can include headaches, dizziness and constipation, but these are usually only temporary.

In the later stages of dementia, a  number of people will develop what is known as "behavioural and psychological’ symptoms of dementia (BPSD)" which include :

  • Increased agitation / aggression
  • Delusions / hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Wandering 

Additional treatments such as antipsychotics: (e.g risperidone or haloperidol) or antidepressants may be needed to manage these symptoms if alternative coping strategies don’t work.

Alternative remedies: Some people use complementary remedies, however, there is not enough evidence to say whether such remedies are effective.

Non-medical support: Medicines are important, but are only one part of the care for a person with dementia. Other treatments, activities and support – for the carer, too – are just as important in helping people to live well with dementia.

You'll find more details about these treatments in the Alzheimer's Society's dementia guide.