13 Minutes

Edited & medically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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Alzheimer’s disease is on the ascent all around the world. Alzheimer’s disease and associated dementias are thought to affect at minimum 50 million individuals worldwide. It is more than the population of Columbia as per the United Nations. If no advancements are made, by 2050 the population could reach 152 million.

Within the time it took to read this line aloud, a person has just been diagnosed with dementia somewhere on the globe. Someone in the world develops dementia every three seconds.

Alzheimer’s disease now affects over 5.8 million people in the United States. Until scientists formulate new techniques to treat or prevent the disease, roughly 13.8 million people in the United States above 65 might be living with it by 2050. However, estimations relying on the US Census’s long-term population growth projections indicate that this figure might be as big as 16 million.

Hundreds of thousands of American families are drastically altered by this disease daily.

Alzheimer’s disease affects someone in the US every 65 seconds. By the middle of the century, one person in the US will contract Alzheimer’s disease every 33 seconds. This year about 500,000 new cases of Alzheimer’s disease are expected to be diagnosed.

There seem to be a lot of them, and they appear in order as the sickness worsens. The most crucial thing to understand is that the disease has no treatment. The goal of treatment is to keep the patient’s mental state as stable as feasible for as long as possible. Cognitive impairments and behavioral problems are the two types of non-medical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Caregivers deal with fading memories, as well as thinking and language deficits, on the cognitive side. Depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, restlessness, delusions, hallucinations, physical and verbal acting out, agitation, and other disruptive behaviors are all examples of behavioral problems. 

The rehab program for people with Alzheimer’s disease varies based on the symptoms, manifestations, and course of the disease, as well as the difficulty in diagnosing the disease. These factors affect the extent and type of help required by Alzheimer’s patients and their families. The rehab experts at high-end rehab centers offer a variety of therapy options for senior patients, including those with Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological diseases. The language and speech therapists can also assist in the evaluation of communication deficiencies and the development of short- and long-term programs to improve function.

At upscale Alzheimer’s rehab centers, a coping with Dementia program is offered that assesses the patient’s communicating abilities through a variety of cognitive, language, speech, and memory skills tests. The findings are utilized to create therapeutic goals and offer additional treatment suggestions.

It is indeed crucial to note that, while any abilities lost will not be restored, the Alzheimer’s care team should keep the following concerns in mind:

  • Physical activity and social interaction, as well as good nutrition and health care, are essential.
  • Plan everyday events that give the person discipline, purpose, and a sense of achievement.
  • Adapt routines and activities when functions are lost to help the patient participate as much as necessary.
  • Maintain a sense of familiarity and satisfaction in your actions.
  • Let the individual perform as many tasks as feasible on his or her own. The caretaker may need to start a task, but the individual should be allowed to finish as much as possible.
  • Give “cues” for desired behavior (e.g., name cabinets, closets, and cupboards based on their contents).
  • Remove any safety threats to keep the person out of physical danger path (for instance, matches, car keys).
  • It is indeed critical to recognize your own emotional and physical limits as a caretaker (part-time or full-time).

Since Alzheimer’s disease is a multifaceted medical condition with various components that needs utmost attention, it is logical to say that the therapy for it is complex as well. There is no definitive treatment or cure for the disease, and there is no medication that can help stop or reverse the signs, or even slow down the disease’s growth.

Rather, the goal of treatment is to help people preserve cognitive performance, manage maladaptive behaviors, and reduce some of the most troublesome symptoms that are affecting their life quality.

Treatment is typically determined by the stage of Alzheimer’s disease and the symptoms that accompany it. Because symptoms vary in severity and alter over time, treatment approaches may modify or continue as a work-in-progress for a long time. This is why having attentive caretakers and visiting the doctor regularly is beneficial to those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Although prescription medications for behavior, memory, or mood can be useful, there are indeed non-drug treatment choices that can be beneficial and improve the quality of life.

Cognitive therapy

People with Alzheimer’s disease as well as other forms of dementia benefit from cognitive therapy, which concentrates on resolving cognitive deficiencies with activities that specifically target cognitive functions. Memory training, skills training, and reality orientation therapy are all examples of this.  These therapies employ guided practice on standardized activities and may change depending on how far the individual progresses – but the goal is also to sustain functionality in a given area.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) involves not just behavioral strategies for treating mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, but also beneficial cognitive modification, or the replacement of harmful thoughts and beliefs with more positive ones.

CBT is most effective in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease since it necessitates some reflection and contemplation. Couples therapy, which may be incredibly useful for the spouse of someone with Alzheimer’s disease, can be included in CBT.

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy, at its most basic level, assists people in doing the tasks they wish (or require) to do by therapeutically adjusting everyday tasks. This means adjusting the environment for Alzheimer’s patients and working out how to keep them involved in daily pursuits, protect them from harm, and maintain their quality of life. Large signs with instructions on how to prepare a meal, eliminating access to harmful items such as sharp tools, eliminating the risk of falls, and promoting long-term memory through photographs and speaking about the past are just a few examples.

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Because the mental, physical and emotional demands of either the caregiver or the patient alter as the disease advances, occupational therapy can be effective at any stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

Art and Music therapy

Art therapy and music therapy have already been demonstrated to help with neuropsychiatric and cognition disorders. According to several studies,  episodic and autobiographical memories, executive functioning, psychomotor speed, and global cognition are all improved.

Music therapy can take several forms, like merely listening to music, chanting along, and using music to stimulate many senses. Based on research studies, music therapy should be performed by a qualified and skilled music therapist who can personalize the therapy to the patient’s individual needs. While several researchers have indicated that music therapy has benefits, some have not. Consult your physician to see if this is a viable treatment choice.

Art therapy, on the other hand, uses a variety of art designs and styles to engage in the artistic process as a means of exploring feelings, boosting self-esteem, and improving interpersonal skills. Art therapy aims to improve physical functionality and overall well-being. Depending on the project and possibly physical restrictions of the individual in therapy, projects may include the use of watercolors or oil paints, clay, pastels, and other media.

Programs for group exercise

Exercise has been shown to aid patients with Alzheimer’s disease slow cognitive loss, and also perhaps lessen the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease – as well as cardiovascular illness, that has its links to Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercise increases blood to the brain and can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, which could both be major risk factors for dementia. A group environment can also help individuals with Alzheimer’s maintain social connections by providing interaction and reducing isolation. Before beginning any physical exercise, it is advisable to check with the patient’s doctor to be sure they’re healthy enough to exercise and to be aware of possible risks or limitations.

A patient with Alzheimer’s disease can be treated with a variety of therapy choices. Consult the person’s doctor to determine what is best for them and if there are any special issues to bear in mind.

Non-drug treatments focus on modifying how you comprehend and engage with the individual with Alzheimer’s disease to treat the behavioral, emotional, and psychological symptoms of this disease.

These techniques understand that for people with Alzheimer’s disease, behavior is frequently a means of communication. The purpose of non-drug techniques is to figure out what the challenging behaviors mean and why they’re happening in the first place.

Non-drug treatments should be tried first, as they do not carry the risk of side effects or prescription combinations that psychiatric medicines have.

Assessment of Behavior

Specify a particular behavior and identify what appears to be the source of the behavior.

Try a bath instead of a shower if your partner is always anxious after a shower. Alternatively, try showering at varying times of the day.

Instead of medicating someone who is disturbed or restless, a non-drug strategy helps to seek out why they are upset. Maybe they require the restroom, are in discomfort or believe they have misplaced essential things.

Take note of what occurs just before the behavior, try something new the next time, and keep track of the consequences.

Validation Therapy

Modifying your perspective can help you avoid developing problematic behaviors. If your close one asks to see their mom (who might be dead for decades), instead of forcing them to face her death, you can make them comfortable and let them tell you about her. This is known as validation therapy, and it can be quite helpful in calming an unhappy person.

Meaningful Activities. Dementia patients may feel bored or lonely sometimes, and they will be unable to express these feelings effectively.

Allowing them to interact meaningfully with others, complete basic duties such as arranging papers or household chores, or singing along to their favorite songs can boost their mood and lessen feelings of boredom and restlessness.

Physical Activity. Dementia patients may develop inappropriate behavior or experience distress as a result of a lack of physical activity. This can be met by getting back up and taking a walk, engaging in a group physical activity session, or completing some light exercise. Furthermore, for some people, exercising has the power to enhance cognition.

Brain Engagement. Other non-drug therapies focus on people with Alzheimer’s disease’s cognitive performance. Staying cognitively active, such as by working a jigsaw or reading books, has been demonstrated to assist persons with dementia to preserve their memory and concentration. While none of these methods can cure Alzheimer’s disease—and some are more effective than others based on the stage of the disease—they might provide limited help.

How to Utilize Validation Therapy Effectively?

Assume your Alzheimer’s-affected mom lives with you in your house and often calls up for her mom. People who perform validation therapy can utilize the following approaches in the scenario, as per the Validation Training Institute:

Self-Centering. Slow down and take a deep breath. When your 92-year-old mother begins shouting out loud for her mother, your first impulse might be to try to reason with her. But consider — and breathe — before you react.

Reminisce. Inquire about your mother’s mother and also what she remembers about her. Let your mother vent her loneliness by sharing a story about her mother.

Use Extremes. Inquire if she ever misses her mother and also what she recalls most from her. This may help her deal with the sadness she’s experiencing as a result of her mother’s death.

Emotions must be matched and expressed. Participate in your mother’s emotions. Recognize her grief for the loss of a parent and the strong connection they shared.

Rephrase. Reframing her feelings in your own words helps reassure her that you respect and understand her grief. “You must miss your mother” you can say, and she will feel less anxious because you are articulating what she is experiencing.

Make use of your senses. Inquire about her family’s background. For instance, inquire about her mother’s favorite dish and how it tasted, or how lovely she appeared all dressed up for church regularly in the mornings.

Is Validation Therapy Effective?

When it comes to determining the success of validation treatment, the evidence is inconsistent. Validation treatment has been studied in a variety of ways, with some concluding that it is useful and others concluding that it is no more effective than a placebo. Several Cochrane Database Systemic Reviews indicate that there is insufficient data to draw an inference that it is ineffective, but that there isn’t enough evidence to prove that it is beneficial.

Nicole Richard started the practice of a novel form of validation treatment called integrated validation therapy, which was utilized in the research in a long-term treatment center in Germany. Following a person’s feelings and behaviors, integrated validation therapy recommends particular attitudes and behaviors. Integrated validation treatment was found to reduce residents’ restlessness, and caregivers were satisfied regarding using it with the residents, according to research.

In the therapeutic experience, there have been numerous situations where validation treatment has worked exceptionally well, and others, where it has failed miserably and merely, served to irritate the individual. Other doctors report personal anecdotes of validation therapy’s usefulness in reducing problematic behaviors and emotional discomfort.

A nutritious diet has been demonstrated to help eliminate or mitigate the development of Alzheimer’s disease. It is recommended that the diet be high in dark vegetables and fruits, high in omega-3 oils, and low in fat. Incorporating Coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, and folate into the diet could also help reduce the chances of Alzheimer’s disease. There does not appear to be a single feature of the diet that offers neuroprotection; rather, the things work in concert to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants including Ginkgo Biloba and Vitamin E, as well as anti-inflammatory drugs and hormone replacement therapy for females, are also being studied.

Because pharmaceuticals are ineffective in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, many people are turning to alternative and complementary remedies. Most of these ideas are currently under investigation, and researchers are working. Even though some people have claimed improved memory after taking some supplements, none have been proven effective enough in clinical research to suggest them for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The most promising treatment was the vitamin E supplement. However, as per the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, there’s only one study that showed it could help people with Alzheimer’s disease slow down their functional deterioration.

Eating fish as well as other foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, notably docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), has been proven to have a preventive effect in studies. However, taking DHA supplements by those who have been labeled with Alzheimer’s disease is ineffective.

Ginkgo biloba, which has no solid proof of protecting against or delaying Alzheimer’s disease, and curcumin, which hasn’t had enough study done to justify its use, are two more CAM possibilities that have been explored.

If you want to attempt complementary alternative treatments, talk to a healthcare expert on Alzheimer’s disease first because some can interfere with other medicines or cause serious side effects.



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