Dementia by definition is a deteriorating illness with no cure, meaning that it will get worse over time no matter what we do. So the only thing we can do is manage the situation as best as possible.
However, if you live with the person you will unfortunately witness the deterioration right in front of your eyes, which is extremely difficult and heartbreaking to witness. No matter how much you resist, there is unfortunately no way to stop this deterioration.
Different psychiatric medications have varying degrees of success. Once the proper medication is decided for the patient, it might help ease the symptoms or slow the progress of the disease, but it will not stop the deterioration altogether.
There are also several other treatments that I often suggest, yet few people listen as everyone is hoping for a miracle pill which does not exist. These treatments are always beneficial physically and emotionally:
1. Occupational therapy to ensure your loved one remains independent and active as possible
2. Psychological therapy for family members to help to accept the situation and to learn strategies to deal with day-to-day situations
3. Psychological therapy for your loved one to help him/her deal with his diagnosis in the early stages
4. Music therapy or art therapy to help your loved engage and enjoy life as much as they can.
5. A comprehensive nursing assessment looking at the day-to-day aspects of the person's life, in order to identify and solve difficulties (e.g. eating, bathing, dressing, sleeping, behavioural problems)
6. Attending a support group to get ideas on how to manage situations or just so that you don't feel alone and isolated
Other experts that also help with Dementia care are Dietitians, Physiotherapists, Social Workers and of course other doctors such as GPs/Neurologists. To learn more about each of these, click here.
The idea when treating a person with Dementia is that it should be a team effort. We unfortunately do not have big centres such as in Canada or the US/UK where everything can be found in one place, but we are lucky in T&T to have excellent, well-trained healthcare professionals that one can go to privately. The problem of course is that it is so expensive. This is why careful planning for retirement, and investing in insurance plans are so important! There are also excellent healthcare professionals in the public sector, but you may have to ask around to make sure you get the best qualified, most suitable person available.
We should never give up on loved ones with dementia, as there is so much that we can do to make their lives (and yours) better. But acceptance of the reality of the situation is the first step. Also, acceptance of the fact that it will be very very difficult and will require a lot of work on your part might make things easier in the long run. I know dealing with dementia is hard, but don't give up!
Dr James Bratt, Lead Consultant at Age Caribbean and Geriatric Psychicatrist.