Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

A person with dementia will need more care as time goes on.

A person with dementia will need more care as time goes on.
beginning of content

Dementia treatment and care

There are many ways a person with dementia can be helped to cope with their problems and improve their quality of life. In some cases, it may be possible to slow the progress of dementia, although there are no cures.

General care and support

The most important thing is general care and support.

To a person with dementia, the world is a confusing and sometimes hostile place. So it is a great help to have people around them to help them understand what is going on, to take their time, and to offer emotional and physical support.

Psychological therapies

Cognitive stimulation and reality orientation therapy

These therapies involve activities designed to stimulate the person’s mind and remind them of who they are, where they are and what they are doing. These can be done by anybody.

Behavioural therapy

This therapy uses a problem-solving approach and different strategies to try to change a particular behaviour, such as wandering or aggression. Behavioural therapy is usually provided by a carer or trained friend or relative.

Validation therapy

This therapy focuses on dementia from an emotional rather than a factual perspective. Rather than trying to bring the person with dementia back to our reality, validation therapy advocates that it is more positive to enter their reality. This type of therapy aims to offer comfort and reduce distress.

Music therapy

Music can be used as a formal therapy or simply for enjoyment. It can also help in the management of difficult behaviours. Music therapy does not require a long attention span and it can also be a valuable trigger for reminiscing.

Reminiscence

Reminiscence is a way of reviewing the past in a positive and rewarding way. Even if the person with dementia can’t speak, they can still get pleasure from being involved in reflections on their past. It can also be a means of distraction if the person becomes upset.

Medicines

There are several medicines available in Australia to treat a variety of symptoms associated with dementia. These include medicines for:

  • cognitive (thinking) symptoms
  • agitation, aggression, delusions and hallucinations
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • sleep disturbances.

If medicines are being considered, questions to ask the doctor include:

  • What are the potential benefits of taking this drug?
  • How long before we notice an improvement?
  • How will we know if it’s not working?
  • What are the known side effects?
  • What should be done if there are side effects?
  • What other medicines (prescription and over the counter) might interact with this medicine?
  • How might this drug affect other medical conditions?
  • Is the drug available at a subsidised rate?

Some of the symptoms listed above are termed behaviourial and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) that can cause distress and harm to those affected by dementia. Sometimes a doctor may suggest use of a type of medication known as an anti-psychotic to manage BPSD.

The National Prescribing Service (NPS) advises that the use of anti-psychotic medication be reserved for the management during dementia care of more severe BPSD psychological and behaviour changes. Less severe BPSD can be managed in most cases without the use of anti-psychotic medication. For more information, talk to your doctor or visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

The consent of a person with dementia is needed for any treatment offered.

Expert advice - dementia treatments

Living with dementia can be difficult, but there are ways to treat and manage it. Watch the video below and learn about the treatment options for dementia. These include physical exercise and medication and how they can help slow dementia's progression or manage its symptoms.


Read the related video transcript

Coordinating care

A person with dementia will need more care as time goes by. It's a good idea to establish one person as the coordinator of that care early on. They could be a health professional, a social worker or a relative or friend.

It is also a good idea to have that person develop a care plan. This plan is a way of making sure the right care and treatment is offered at the right time.

Planning ahead

It is wise to plan early for the future.

A person with dementia can delegate the management of their affairs to someone they trust through a power of attorney.

They can also draw up an advanced care directive which states their treatment preferences in case they are unable to give consent to treatment at a later stage.

Last reviewed: November 2016

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 1 results

Alzheimer's Australia | How is dementia treated?

Information about some of the drug treatments currently used in the treatment of dementia. Drug treatments and dementia This page discusses broadly some of the drug treatments currently being used in the treatment of dementia. This includes new drugs which may have a temporary effect in improving mental functioning and drugs used to treat accompanying symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

Read more on Alzheimer's Australia website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback