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International panel says caregivers should focus on non-drug treatment for dementia

August 6, 2018
by I Advance Senior Care
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In dementia, behavioral and psychological symptoms can be challenging for doctors and caregivers to manage.

According to ABC News, an international panel of 11 clinical and research experts from around the world reviewed the most current pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment recommendations for these symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of dementia, and published the results Thursday in the journal International Psychogeriatrics.

Dr. Helen C. Kales, director of the Program for Positive Aging at the University of Michigan and research investigator at the Veterans Affairs Center for Clinical Management Research, explained to ABC News that just a “memory disorder" is usually how people classify dementia.

"But people who are dealing with it, like caregivers," Kales, a geriatric psychiatrist, said, "often deal with behavioral and psychological symptoms, which include things like depression, anxiety, sleep problems, wandering [off], psychosis, and agitation.”

Non-pharmacological approaches were ranked by panelists as more important first-line interventions than drug treatments for those with behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. These included evaluating for any underlying treatable cause first, followed by caregiver training, environment adaptation strategies, person-centered care approaches, and tailored activities for a person with dementia.

Kales explained that determining if there's an underlying cause at fault is the most important factor in evaluating someone with any new behavioral symptom.

“If you’re in a nursing home and you’re called at 4 o'clock on a Friday and someone says, ‘Mr. Smith is agitated,’ a provider is expected to prescribe something," Kales said. "We would say that’s not good practice. That’s akin to someone calling a pediatrician and saying, ‘My child has shortness of breath, give me an antibiotic.’ But you would never do that because it could be any number of things, you need to do a physical, maybe get labs. If you’re just adding medications on top, you could be missing something big that's going on underneath and brewing.”

Read the full story at ABC News.

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