Alzheimer’s and Dementia Treatment and Memory Care

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Treatment and Memory Care

Most forms of dementia are currently considered progressive and incurable, although advances in medicine may change that in the future.

Benefits of Alzheimers and Dementia Treatment

Most forms of dementia are currently considered progressive and incurable, although advances in medicine may change that in the future. Just because we don’t have a cure now doesn’t mean that a veteran experiencing dementia doesn’t benefit from treatment, however. On the contrary, doctors and therapists have developed an array of treatment techniques that can make a dementia patient’s life better. Patients can benefit from medications, therapies, activities, and assistance that range from in-home help to full-time memory care in a medical facility.

Proper treatment, including memory care, can:

Slow the worsening of symptoms

Improve the happiness and health of the patient

Reduce the risk of injury for patients and caregivers

Alleviate caregiver stress

Elements of Dementia Treatment

Below we’ve outlined some key elements of dementia treatment so that you can know what to expect as you and your loved one learn more about their condition.


A medical evaluation for the purpose of diagnosis can take many different forms, but will probably include all of the following:

A general physical exam and inquiry into overall health and habits

Conversation with the patient and oral, written, or physical tests to gauge cognitive function and reflexes

A conversation with the patient’s caregiver or spouse about their observations

In many cases, a doctor may order one or more of the following:

Blood or other lab tests to rule out deficiencies or hormonal imbalances that are reversible

CT or MRI scans to check for evidence of strokes, internal bleeding, or tumors

PET scans to confirm the presence of Alzheimer’s-related protein deposits or to evaluate brain activity

Be aware that problems with memory and moods aren’t always evidence of incurable dementia. Poor nutrition, lack of sleep, depression, anxiety, thyroid problems, or tumors, and a variety of other conditions occasionally interfere with memory and manifest similar symptoms to those of other dementias. Early diagnosis is important in part because a professional will be able to distinguish between dementia and other conditions.


Once a senior has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or with another form of dementia, a doctor may prescribe medication to manage symptoms. Not every patient will take the same medication for the same symptoms, and doctors may decide that medication is not helpful in some cases.

Commonly prescribed medications for dementia patients include:

Cholinesterase inhibitors: These drugs alter brain chemistry in order to boost the levels of key chemicals involved in memory. Cholinesterase inhibitors are commonly prescribed to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body dementia, or Parkinson’s disease.

Memantine: This drug improves memory and daily function in some Alzheimer’s patients. It works by blocking certain chemical receptors and altering the way the brain handles glutamate.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): Dementia patients often experience depression and anxiety in addition to memory problems. These mood disorders can be a response to the diagnosis of dementia and fear for the future, and they can also be a symptom of changes within the brain caused by dementia. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be used effectively to improve a patient’s quality of life and to ease mood swings.

Antipsychotics: With some forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, hallucinations are common. Doctors sometimes prescribe antipsychotic drugs to reduce or eliminate hallucinations that are distressing to the patient. This kind of medication poses some risks to elderly patients and is generally used with caution and increased supervision.

Some of these medications can trigger serious or unpleasant side effects or interact with other medications that a senior takes. It’s crucial that caregivers pay attention to how medication is affecting their loved ones. It’s also important to return to follow up visits on whatever schedule the doctor suggests for monitoring the effect medications are having on the patient’s dementia.

Therapy and Activities 

Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and even music and art therapy can all be tools for improving the safety and happiness of patients with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Activities that include social elements that are stimulating without being overwhelming are often recommended because they can improve the patient’s sense of well being and level of activity. Patients that don’t participate in stimulating activities may decline more quickly than those that do.

Therapy can be useful for family caregivers, too. Therapy of various kinds can teach caregivers important coping skills and communication techniques so they don’t become burnt out. Support groups for Alzheimer’s caregivers are also often available in local communities.

Assistance and Memory Care

Patients in the middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia need full-time assistance either from a family member, a nurse, or other trained professionals. The level of assistance needed varies quite a bit, but it generally starts as the need for someone to mind the patient and help them with activities of daily living such as cooking and taking medication, and then progresses to more medical and labor-intensive needs as the condition worsens. The provision of assistance for dementia patients, especially around the clock assistance in a secure medical facility, is often referred to as “memory care.”

Memory Care Settings

There are multiple types of locations where veterans can receive memory care: including at home and in a residential facility. More specifics are provided below.

In-home care: Many families opt for in-home memory care, especially in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Family members often serve as paid or unpaid caregivers, but they may also rely on non-medical trained aides from a community aide program during certain hours, especially to help with bathing and other difficult tasks. Many families also utilize “respite care” in which a paid caregiver takes over for a period of hours, days, or even weeks so that a family caregiver can go out of town or take a much-needed break.

Blended adult daycare and in-home care: Adult daycares exist to provide secure medical or non-medical memory care and assistance while caregivers work. Adult daycare can be cost-effective and enable the adult child of a veteran with dementia to make a living while looking after and providing a home for the parent at night and on days off. This is an ideal setup for those who can’t be full-time caregivers but who still want to be very involved in the dementia patient’s daily life. Adult daycares typically provide transportation and meals.

Assisted Living: Privately owned assisted living facilities often have a memory care wing within the building. These wings will have private or semi-private rooms for the patients. A memory care unit within an assisted living facility will offer all of the meals and other services typically offered within the assisted living facility, with the addition of 24/7 supervision provided by trained staff. Many locations include alarmed doors to prevent dangerous wandering. The cost of care in these units will always be higher than the cost of living within regular areas of the same assisted living community.

Nursing Homes: Nursing homes frequently provide memory care in special units or separate floors. Patients can receive 24/7 care from staff who are specially trained to handle dementia needs. Staff-to-resident ratios in nursing homes are regulated by state laws and could be even lower than one-to-ten, depending on location. Memory care units have secure perimeters so forgetful patients cannot wander off and put themselves in danger. These units are ideal for patients who need constant supervision along with skilled nursing care.

Medical Foster Homes: Medical foster homes are local households that contract with the VA to provide full-time care equivalent to that provided in nursing homes .These homes are licensed and inspected regularly, and they may house veterans alongside non-veterans. Medical foster homes are staffed 24/7, and they typically have about six adults in them at a time. Caregivers live within the home. These homes typically receive funds from families rather than directly from government sources like the VA.

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