Dementia affects a staggering number of older people in the United States. In fact, researchers at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center have found that nearly 10% of U.S. adults age 65 and older have dementia. The percentages climb frighteningly higher as people age. The same study concluded that 35% of people in their 90s have dementia.
Although dementia has no cure, there are ways to treat the symptoms and help patients have a better quality of life. Advances in technology and medicine have led to more effective strategies for combating this illness.
The use of communication aids can help dementia patients recall events and the feelings they felt while experiencing them. Keeping in contact with loved ones can facilitate this, even when patients may not remember the names and faces of their family members. Using adapted phones with programmed numbers and large, easy-to-use buttons allows dementia patients to keep in touch with family. Showing those with dementia how to use video chat services can also be helpful.
A study featured in the National Library of Medicine noted that there are benefits for both dementia patients and their caregivers when communication aids are available. Researchers found that:
“Mobile applications as tools for facilitating communication in people with dementia are promising. Mobile applications are not only feasible socially, logistically, and financially but also produce meaningful communication improvements in people with dementia and their caregivers.”
As with other diseases, syndromes, and sicknesses, prescription medication can play a key role in easing the burdens that dementia lays on patients and caregivers. Recently, the FDA approved the new drug lecanemab (Leqembi™) as treatment. Leqembi, which was initially approved as a treatment for early Alzheimer’s, might also be an effective treatment for dementia.
Billy Dunn, director of the Office of Neuroscience in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, stated: “This treatment option is the latest therapy to target and affect the underlying disease process of Alzheimer’s, instead of only treating the symptoms of the disease.”
With today’s technological advances, robotics has started to play a part in caring for a person with dementia. Dementia can cause memory loss, comprehension lapses, judgment impairment, diminished learning capacity, and communication difficulties. When these effects are present, the person can become frustrated, confused, and upset. Assisting with routine tasks can help to alleviate some of these consequences. Robots can assist with household chores and duties as well as give reminders to take medication. Robots are not designed to replace human caregivers, though. Rather, the robots assist and support the caregivers.
Anyone who has a family member struggling with dementia knows how difficult it can be to cope. With no cure available to reverse the effects of dementia, loved ones and caregivers turn to new treatments and technology to help people with dementia improve their quality of life.