Treatment & Support

Alzheimer's Society

The support available to help a person live well with the condition includes drug treatments, and care and support without drugs. The person should have a chance to talk to a professional about their diagnosis who could be a:

  • psychiatrist or mental health nurse
  • clinical psychologist
  • occupational therapist
  • GP
  • dementia adviser.

Information on the support available, and where to go for further advice, is very important for helping someone to stay physically and mentally well. Professionals such as the GP and staff at the memory service or local Alzheimer’s Society can give advice on the best support to help the person and the people caring for them.

You can search for services in your area atalzheimers.org.uk/dementiadirectory. When the person is talking to professionals they may find it helpful to ask for written information that they can take away and read at their own pace. 

Drug treatments

There are drug treatments for Alzheimer’s disease that can temporarily ease symptoms, or slow down their progression, for some people. These drugs are often marketed under brand names (some of these are in brackets below).

A person in the mild (early) or moderate (middle) stages of Alzheimer’s disease or mixed dementia will usually be prescribed a drug such as:

  • donepezil (for example, Aricept)
  • rivastigmine (for example, Exelon)
  • galantamine (for example, Reminyl).

The drug may reduce anxiety, help with memory problems, improve concentration and motivation, and help with aspects of daily living such as cooking, shopping or hobbies. They work by boosting the levels of some chemical messengers in the brain.

A person in the moderate or severe (late) stages of Alzheimer’s disease or mixed dementia may be offered a different kind of drug –memantine (for example, Ebixa). This may help with mental abilities (such as orientation) and daily living, and might also reduce behaviours that challenge or aredistressing (such as agitation and having delusions).

A wide range of other drugs may be prescribed at different times for a person with dementia. These may include drugs for blood pressure or diabetes, depression or anxiety, sleeping tablets or antipsychotics.

Support without drugs

There are many ways to help someone with dementia stay independent and cope with changes such as memory loss. These include practical things like supporting the person to have a routine or use a weekly pill box.

There are other assistive technology products available such as electronic reminders and calendar clocks. To see a range of products, including equipment and adaptations, go to Alzheimer’s Society’s online shop at alzheimers.org.uk/shop

If someone is depressed or anxious, they may want to try talking therapies (such as cognitive behavioural therapy). Counselling may help the person adjust to the diagnosis. 

Many people attend sessions to keep mentally active (cognitive stimulation) – memory services and local Alzheimer’s Society offices will have more information about what’s available in the area. Lots of people also like to do life story work, in which someone shares their life experiences and makes a personal record. This can help with their memory, mood and wellbeing.

Keeping mentally, physically and socially active can have a very positive impact on a person with Alzheimer’s disease. They should try to keep up with activities they enjoy and may also want to try new ones. For example:

  • taking regular physical exercise such as swimming, walking or tai chi
  • exercising their mind with reading or puzzles
  • joining a group to sing, dance or make music
  • doing arts, crafts or other hobbies
  • visiting a local museum or gallery, or going on day trips.

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