Medications For Dementia Can Help Significantly

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Receiving a dementia diagnosis or being close to someone living with dementia can be a challenging, life-altering experience, particularly because it is generally progressive. However, medications and non-drug strategies can help manage dementia symptoms. Getting the proper treatments and working together with your doctor or other health care professional may enable you to manage physical and cognitive symptoms as effectively as possible. 

Learning to live with dementia can be challenging

What is dementia? 

Dementia is a term used to describe a group of medical conditions that can impact memory and other cognitive abilities to an extent that’s severe enough to interfere with daily life. Individuals living with mild dementia or experiencing early stages of the disease may struggle with memory and thinking but are usually able to continue living on their own. Cases of severe dementia, particularly among older adults, may require intensive care to support significant mental decline and limited physical capabilities. No matter what type of dementia a person is living with, it is typical for dementia-related behaviors (forgetfulness, mood changes, confusion, difficulty concentrating) to worsen over time.

Alzheimer's disease

The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which can account for around 60% to 80% of all diagnosed cases. Also common can be vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and other conditions, like Huntington’s disease. It can also be possible to experience what’s typically known as mixed dementia, which can occur when a person experiences the changes associated with multiple types of dementia at once. 

Other diseases

Other diseases that can cause symptoms of dementia include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and Parkinson’s disease dementia. Dementia is caused by various diseases that damage brain cells and impede their ability to communicate with each other, affecting the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Dementia most commonly presents in older patients, and the most common risk factors for the disease (age and genetics) cannot be changed.

Medications to manage symptoms

Please note that the following information does not constitute medical advice and is only intended for general educational purposes. Always consult a licensed medical professional about starting, stopping, or changing any form of medication to discuss benefits, dosage, and potential side effects.

Medications approved for dementia patients typically include memantine, cholinesterase inhibitors, depression medications, anxiety medications, sleeping aids, and more. The right combination of medications generally depends on a person’s diagnosis, symptoms, and health needs.

Memantine can manage the glutamate in your brain. Glutamate is a chemical that is usually involved in several key brain functions, such as learning and memory. Taking memantine has the potential to improve a patient's cognitive abilities in the short term. Even if it isn't necessarily a long-term solution, it can be a promising medication that may help millions of people around the world.

It can also be very common for people to develop mental health disorders like depression and anxiety when living with dementia. This may stem from physical changes to the brain, the emotional weight that may accompany a diagnosis, or both. Doctors may prescribe anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications to help patients manage symptoms. In rare instances, health professionals may prescribe a low dose of antipsychotic drugs to manage symptoms of agitation or aggression.

Treating different types

Vascular dementia is often treated differently than other types of dementia. Vascular dementia typically occurs after a patient has experienced a stroke. This form of dementia can also be brought about due to extremely high blood pressure, unchecked thyroid problems, high cholesterol, issues with blood sugar, and vitamin deficiencies. 

Treatment for vascular dementia may involve prescribing high blood pressure medications, cholesterol medications, vitamins, diabetes medications, and more. To treat vascular dementia, you will likely need to eliminate or improve the conditions that may have contributed to it in the first place.

Therapy can help alongside medication

While medications are often used to help those living with dementia limit the severity of their symptoms, they often are not enough to completely support a person through treatment and long-term care. In addition to medication, certain therapies may be used to treat dementia or provide support to those living with it. These therapies may not be capable of changing what is happening to a patient in a medical sense, but they may provide important resources, build skills, and take steps to prolong a person’s cognitive functioning for as long as possible.

Music therapy, art therapy, and similar treatment options can help some dementia patients stimulate their minds while also pursuing therapeutic goals like expressing emotions and solving problems. Traditional “talk therapy” may also be used to give patients a space to discuss their experiences, learn how to navigate challenges, and more.

In terms of combatting symptoms head-on, cognitive stimulation therapy (CST) is perhaps one of the best options to pursue. Research even suggests that cognitive stimulation therapy may improve quality of life for those diagnosed with dementia. However, cognitive function does not have to tie to how a person experiences life. Other factors, like lower levels of depression and more independence, can also help. Therapy options of all sorts can help a person achieve these goals, too. 

Online therapy as part of your treatment plan

One reachable way to get treatment options that work for your needs and goals may be through online therapy. You generally don't have to leave the comfort of your home to join sessions, which can be especially useful for those whose mobility or ability to travel independently is limited. Plus, being able to connect with providers who specialize in various areas may make it easier to find someone who fits your needs and preferences.

Online therapy can provide effective care to those living with dementia and their loved ones. For instance, a 2023 study investigating the efficacy of internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy found that it could treat depression symptoms in people living with chronic conditions like dementia.


Dementia is usually a progressive condition, but it’s also one that can often be managed through the right medications, therapy, and support from others. It can be vital to work closely with your doctor to determine the best treatment regimen. Doing what you can to defend your cognitive abilities and take care of your mind may help you lessen the severity of symptoms and live a longer, healthier life. One way to seek professional support may be through an online therapy platform.
Navigate the challenges of dementia
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