At Chayet & Danzo, LLC, our elder law attorneys are devoted to improving the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia. We represent seniors, family members of those with dementia and people with legal responsibility for the health of vulnerable adults. Those fiduciaries include family members and professionals who are guardians and health care agents under living wills, both of whom may direct and oversee the medical care of someone with Alzheimer’s.
Emotional distress and resulting symptoms
Of course, working with doctors, mental health professionals, therapists and caregivers to understand treatment options and to receive guidance in making those choices is the primary vehicle for meeting health care responsibilities. One challenge in caring for such a patient can be the difficult symptoms of agitation, anger, emotional outbursts and even verbal or physical aggression associated with Alzheimer’s.
Comprehensive review of treatment options
A new study concludes that when these kinds of symptoms develop, therapies outside of medication can be as or more effective in some patients. Those nontraditional treatments may include “[m]assage, touch therapy, exercise, music therapy and other non-drug treatments,” according to an article from the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. Engaging in activities outdoors and adapting the home environment by eliminating excess noise and distractions are other options.
Toronto researchers reviewed 163 previous medical trials of treatment for these unsettling behaviors in patients who had Alzheimer’s or other kinds of dementia. The researchers concluded that greater focus should be brought on “nonpharmacologic approaches for treatment of aggression and agitation in persons with dementia.”
Disruptive behaviors highly likely
The article notes that about three-quarters of Alzheimer’s patients experience these symptoms in the advanced stages of the illness. Family members and professionals seeking answers to help seniors with these challenging behavioral and emotional needs should thoroughly explore all options with physicians, therapists and caregivers.
As the article points out, these behaviors – which can become dangerous for both patients and caregivers – are often the impetus for out-of-home placement. While the use of antidepressant or antipsychotic medications are options, they can have severe side effects, some of which are especially dangerous in elderly patients. In an “acute crisis” medication may be the right choice to bring symptoms under control, but in ongoing treatment a combination of drugs and alternative therapies may be a good choice.