Dementia Part 4 – Treatment

This is part 4 of Kathy Lawrence’s series on Dementia and we will review treatment options for Alzheimer’s. View Part 1 Dementia – What is it? here, Part 2 Types of Dementia, and Part 3 Types of Dementia.—EH Stafford, Managing Editor


Research and development

Unfortunately, research and development for dementia medications has been minimal. There has not been a new drug on the market since 2003. And, the drugs that are available are not effective in stopping this disease. There are 4 available drugs that may help alleviate memory loss and confusion, but they do so only for a limited time. Of the 200 drugs tested, only 1—Namenda, was approved in 2003.

How can this be that in 2020 we do not have an answer to dementia? With every other disease it seems that we are on track with treatment but not so with dementia. Nobody knows an Alzheimer’s survivor…yet.

If you remember from my previous article Alzheimer’s is caused by the development of Amyloid-beta. But when drug companies have tried to create medications related to amyloid development the results have not been what would have been expected. So, there is still a lot of work to be done.



Here are the current pharmaceutical treatments:

  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors: These medications work by boosting levels of a chemical messenger involved in memory and judgement. Some examples are Aricept, Exelon, and Razadyne. These are used for Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and lewy body dementia. Used in the early to moderate phases of dementia to delay or slow the progression.
  • Memantine: This is Namenda and works by regulating the activity of glutamate, a chemical messenger in the brain that is involved with learning and memory. It is used in the moderate to severe phases of dementia. Sometimes this medication is used in conjunction with others. Namzaric is Namenda plus Aricept. These are used to improve mental function.


Here are some non-pharmaceutical treatments:

  • Physical Therapy: PT’s role in dementia is to prevent functional declines that could lead to falls with major injury as well as to maintain a person’s mobility. The focus of their treatment is on improving strength and balance therefore reducing fall risk, maintain an ambulatory status as well as a person’s ability to continue to function outside the home. Falls are the biggest reason for referral to physical therapy.
  • Occupational Therapy: OT’s role in dementia is to prevent functional declines in a person’s ability to perform their ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living) such as toileting, bathing, and dressing. As a person begins to decline with this disease simple tasks such as putting on clothes becomes difficult. Someone may also put on winter clothes when it’s 80 degrees outside.
  • Speech therapy: Speech therapy can help with safety concerns, memory strategies, and swallowing dysfunctions that are associated with the progression of dementia. As this disease progresses a person’s ability to swallow becomes impacted, called dysphagia. Speech therapy may recommend modifying someone’s diet to make it easier for them to eat and swallow without aspirating.


The ultimate treatment for dementia is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

My next article will focus on prevention.



Kathy Lawrence has 20 years of experience as a Physical Therapist.  Kathy received her Master of Physical Therapy degree in 1999 from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  Then followed up with her Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy in 2008 from A.T. Still University.  She prides herself in her focus on Healthy Aging.  Whether it’s wellness, pain management, or helping recover from an injury Kathy has been instrumental in keeping our aging population on their feet.  



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