Drugs not always the answer for treating people with dementia

13 August, 2009

Leading Australian psychogeriatrician Professor Henry Brodaty AO will present his cuttingedge findings on new approaches to treating people with dementia at a Conference in Perth this month.

Professor Brodaty and his team at the Primary Dementia Collaborative Research Centre at the University of NSW have been studying the benefits of psychosocial therapies in treating common dementia behaviours such as agitation and aggression.

Professor Brodaty said the study found strong evidence supporting the use of non-drug therapies as the first step in alleviating certain behavioural and psychological symptoms in people with dementia before the use of medication.

The team found that non-drug therapies such as person-centred care and aromatherapy can be effective.

“In one study, the introduction of psychosocial therapies over four months significantly
reduced the agitation levels of residents with dementia in a care facility,” Professor Brodaty said.

He stressed that while drug treatments still have a place in the overall management of
behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, the evidence for their use is still limited and the benefits and adverse effect must be carefully weighed.

“Certain medication such as antipsychotic drugs can have side effects associated with a more rapid cognitive decline, an increased risk of stroke and increased mortality,” he said.

Professor Brodaty will share his findings at Alzheimer’s Australia WA’s Transforming Lives 2009 Symposium in Perth on 14 and 15 August.

The Symposium will bring together doctors, nurses and health and aged-care professionals who will hear about the latest research and innovation in dementia care.

Topics covered include environmental design and dementia, dance therapy in dementia care and how light therapy can help treat sleep disorders in people with dementia.

Frank Schaper, Chief Executive of the organising body, Alzheimer’s Australia WA, said the symposium is designed to challenge medical and health professionals who provide services to people with dementia to be creative, flexible and to think beyond the conventional care models.

“Dementia is now the fourth leading cause of death in Australia and affects one in three people over the age of 65. We need to ensure the health system is ready to meet the challenge of the predicted dementia epidemic,” Schaper said.