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West London NHS Trust > Patients and carers > Mental and physical health conditions > Dementia > Treatment of dementia

Treatment of dementia

Most types of dementia progress slowly. People may live with the condition for ten years or more, requiring increasing levels of support as they become less independent. By carefully planning where a person lives, and giving structure to their day with supportive activities, it may be possible to reduce the impact of the symptoms.
The WLMHT care team will discuss with a person what treatments they want, and respect their wishes and feelings. By focusing on the whole person, not just the symptoms, achievable goals based on a person’s abilities and strengths are established.

Medication

While there is no treatment that can cure dementia, medication can control symptoms and enable a person to live independently in their home for longer.
Before medication is suggested, it is important to understand the underlying causes that may have triggered certain symptoms because these may be able to be addressed with occupational therapy or talking treatments. However, when the symptoms are severe and extremely distressing, it may be appropriate for a person to be offered medication.
In the early stages, medication can improve a person’s memory. Tranquilisers, antidepressants and anxiety-relieving medication can relieve some symptoms such as being irritable, anxious or restless. However, some people do not respond to medication.
Some symptoms should always be treated with medication. These include:

  • Any pain or underlying medical conditions. These can cause or worsen behavioural symptoms.
  • Problems with eyesight and conditions such as cataracts. These can lead to hallucinations and increased vulnerability.
  • Problems with hearing. These can make a person feel more confused.

Talking treatments

These can often prevent the need for medication. Depression and anxiety is common in dementia, particularly in the early stages when a person may be reacting to their diagnosis. Counselling or psychotherapy can treat the symptoms without the need for medication.
A WLHMT clinician will help a person identify personal goals and, whilst accepting that the future is uncertain, continue to support them so that they can lead a satisfying life, whether or not their symptoms are worsening.

Memory clinics

WLMHT is one of the pioneering centres of this kind of work. It involves specially trained clinicians working with groups of patients to stimulate and ‘exercise’ their memories, focusing on information that’s relevant to day-to-day needs. A series of sessions can help people remain more independent for longer and give them a greater sense of control over the condition.

Other treatments

If symptoms are difficult to control, a person may need a specialist service, such as a neurologist or old age psychiatrist. The WLMHT memory clinic may also be of help.

Healthy lifestyle

Simply having a social life can improve many of the symptoms associated with dementia. Taking exercise or being part of a group activity can alleviate mild depression.
The WLMHT care team will help a person find ways to be part of their local community through, for example, volunteering, education and social events.