Treatment for dementia

Sadly there is no cure for dementia at the moment. However there are treatments that can help. Drug treatments can be effective for some people and there are a range of medications that can help with some of the symptoms.

People with dementia can be prescribed a range of medications during the course of the illness. Some are specifically for Alzheimer’s disease and others are for symptoms that may emerge as part of the dementia.

Alzheimer drugs

There is a range of Alzheimer drug treatments that can help some people. They do not cure dementia but help with some of the symptoms. For some people they can help to slow down the progression of the dementia for a period of time. These treatments are not successful for everyone so it is important to discuss all options with your doctor.

The main drug treatments for Alzheimer’s disease are

  • Donepezil (Aricept)
  • Rivastigmine (Exelon)
  • Galantamine  (Cognex)
  • Memantine (Namenda)

In general donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine are used for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Memantine is usually prescribed to people in the middle to later stages of the disease. These are the chemical names for these drugs; the prescription may have a trade name also on the script. The trade names for the drugs are listed above in brackets. Ask the doctor if you are unsure. These drugs may also be used for people with Lewy body dementia and in some cases for people with vascular dementia.

Vascular dementia drugs

People with vascular dementia often need to take medications for underlying conditions such as stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol or heart problems. Controlling these conditions and adopting a healthy lifestyle by not smoking, drinking only in moderation, taking regular exercise and eating a balanced diet may help to delay the progression of this dementia.

Drugs for behavioural symptoms and depression

People with dementia may be prescribed a range of medications to help relieve behavioural symptoms and depression. These medications can include

  • sleeping tablets
  • tranquillisers
  • anti-anxiety drugs
  • anti-psychotic drugs
  • anti-depressants

Not every person with dementia will need these medications and there are other methods to help manage these symptoms. Some people may need medication for a short period of time.

A decision to prescribe these medications should involve a full assessment of the person with dementia, their physical health and well-being. A Psychiatrist of Old Age may be introduced in order to carry out this assessment and help manage the symptoms. Areas such as unrecognised pain, eyesight, hearing and dental health should be explored to see if there are any other causes for the behaviour. It may be possible that the behaviour is a result of something in the environment triggering a response.

Talk to the doctor about daily routines, likes and dislikes so they can build a full picture and help to identify what is triggering the behaviour. There are lots of ways to manage symptoms and behaviours that may emerge, medication is one option which may or may not be suitable.

Need help?
Call the National Helpline
Back To Top