Seeing your senior loved one deal with agitation, anxiety, or aggression due to dementia can be hard to witness or know how to manage. Although, scientists are discovering new ways to calm down patients with ways other than medications.
What Are Alternative Methods to Medications?
Even simple steps, such as getting your loved one with dementia outdoors can help them relax. Studies have found that therapy not involving medications seemed to be better at treating the symptoms of aggression and agitation.
Sadly, dementia affects 50 million people worldwide, most of which have behavioral and psychological symptoms – leading to needing institutionalized care sooner.
The Problem with Dementia Medications
Dementia medications come with significant risks, ironically worsening memory and thinking. Healthcare professionals rely to heavily on a multitude of medications. Anti-psychotic medications come with serious complications, such as an increased risk of stroke and death in people with dementia.
More About the Alternatives
Studies were conducted involving 23,000 people, including drug and non-drug interventions. On average the patients were 75 or older with a variety of different forms of dementia.
The medications included in the study were antidepressants, anti-psychotics, dementia-specific medications, cannabinoids, and Nuedexta. The non-drug alternatives included outdoor activities, changes in the environment, recreational therapy, exercise, massage, and music therapy.
What did the research find?
- After conducting research they found that outdoor activities were the most effective for reducing agitation and aggression.
- Outdoor activities, massage and touch therapy ranked highest for treating verbal aggression.
- Exercise and modifying daily activities seemed best for dealing physical aggression, the study reported.
When it comes to medications, Nuedexta and cannabis were more effective than a placebo in reducing agitation and aggression. Although, these drugs are rarely prescribed and may come with unwanted side effects.
Make Non-Medication Treatments a Priority
Prioritizing non-medication based treatments are extremely beneficial. It might not be possible to implement these non-drug treatments, but we can try our best. Caregiving can be extremely difficult and people are doing their best with the time and resources they have.
A possible answer if raising awareness and advocating for more financial resources to support alternative treatments.
Some interventions can be:
- Soothing a patient with a music player and headphones
- Getting them outdoors to help them relax
- Decorating their room with photos to bring back good memories
What Behaviors to Look Out For?
Aggression, agitation and other non-cognitive symptoms of dementia are often overlooked, but the reality is, for most people with dementia, the non-cognitive symptoms can be more problematic. These behaviors are very disruptive to daily life and family harmony, and the need for effective treatments is great. Medications are not always the best option.
Some of this has to do with paying attention to people. When people have moderate to severe dementia, they have difficulty communicating. They may be feeling discomfort and can’t communicate that they don’t like a certain chair or that they’re too hot. Then they may act out. So, sometimes, it’s a matter of small things in the environment that can be changed.
Person-centered care can be demanding.Caregiver burden is a real problem, and some people may be overwhelmed. But you don’t have to do it all. A first-line approach should be trying to understand what may be happening in that person’s world.
Fairmont Grand Senior Living Community
Fairmont Grand is a resident centered senior living and memory care facility in Rapid City, SD. Our goal is to create an environment where resident well-being is at the heart of everything we do.
Our wide range of services are designed to meet you or your loved one’s daily needs. We offer restaurant style dining options, a variety of physical activities, and give residents the opportunity to live as independently as possible.