What Drugs Are Used to Calm Dementia Patients?

Many different drugs are used to calm individuals with dementia and their symptoms, with medication regimens based on the type of dementia each individual has. Some of the most common include painkillers like buprenorphine, antipsychotic medications and benzodiazepines.

There is no cure for dementia and, as a progressive disease, it gets worse over time, often resulting in mood swings, anxiety, anger or other emotions that are hard for individuals and their families to deal with.

But that doesn’t mean you have to deal with frustration and other difficult emotions without help. There are many ways to calm individuals with dementia and help them find the support they need for a happy, productive life and ease the stress on their family and friends.

Medication is just one of those techniques, and it’s often combined with other tools, such as music therapy, to create a calm, positive environment.

Calming Medication for Individuals with Dementia

If you are working with a relative or friend with dementia who’s using medication to handle their condition, what medication should you expect to come into contact with? What drugs are used to calm dementia patients? Most of the medications used fall into a few categories:

  • Medications that help with pain or constipation
  • Antipsychotics
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Medication that helps with seizures
  • Anti-depressants
  • Medications designed to help with memory and clouded thoughts

Whether you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia diagnosis, medication can help keep individuals calm and reduce their stress and anxiety. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of drugs that are used in Alzheimer’s care and other dementia cases.

Preventing Pain

No one feels calm when they are battling physical pain, and those with dementia are no exception. Often, doctors will prescribe buprenorphine to help reduce physical pain. It can be administered through the skin in a patch form, making it easier for those who have trouble swallowing pills.

Other types of pain medication may be prescribed depending on the situation. For example, some individuals with dementia may experience painful side effects, such as constipation, from other medications they’re taking. A physician may then prescribe a fiber supplement, such as methylcellulose or wheat dextran, along with a dramatic increase in water and movement to reduce constipation-related pain.

Antipsychotics

Hallucinations, delusions and feelings of being attacked are all common symptoms of dementia. To calm individuals with these symptoms, antipsychotic medication may be prescribed. The most common forms used with dementia are:

  • Risperidone
  • Quetiapine
  • Olanzapine
  • Haloperidol

These medications all have both antipsychotic effects and sedating effects that calm individuals with dementia. However, it is important to consider dosages carefully as there are risks of decreased cognitive function and increased falls and risks associated with these types of drugs.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are used to quickly relax you and are an option for alleviating panic attacks, anxiety or even insomnia. Medicines such as lorazepam, temazepam, diazepam, alprazolam and clonazepam are all common forms of benzodiazepines that may be prescribed to help individuals with dementia relax.

Some of these, such as alprazolam, are active in the body for a shorter duration than others, so doctors will prescribe these medications depending on the behavioral patterns that the person with dementia exhibits.

Anti-Seizure Medication

Also known as a mood-stabilizer, valproic acid is a commonly prescribed medical treatment for those who have seizures as part of their experience with dementia. Valproic acid helps sedate overly active brain cells, thus reducing seizures.

Anti-Depressants

Depression is a common symptom of dementia, and as such there are a number of different kinds of anti-depressants prescribed to those with dementia, including:

  • Trazodone, which can help with sedation and improved sleep
  • Mirtazapine, which can increase appetite and help make it easier to fall asleep.
  • SSRI, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which include drugs like citalopram, escitalopram and sertraline

Individuals react to anti-depressants in different ways, so doctors often start by prescribing low doses. They then monitor for side effects like nausea or agitation, slowly increasing the dosage until they pinpoint the most effective prescription.

Memory and Confusion Treatments

There is no cure for dementia, but there are some medications that can help with cognitive symptoms. For example, some drugs are prescribed to deal directly with the symptoms of memory loss and clouded thinking that are associated with dementia.

Cholinesterase inhibitors are a prime example. Cholinesterase inhibitors support neuron function in the brain and are often prescribed for Alzheimer’s disease. You’re most likely to come across these drugs in early stages of the disease in forms like donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine.

Memantine is another drug that specifically targets the underlying causes of dementia. This is often prescribed for people with more severe symptoms. While you won’t necessarily see an improvement in symptoms, this drug is designed to actually slow down the natural progression of dementia.

Non-Medical Ways to Calm Those with Dementia

Drugs are not the only way to calm individuals with dementia, nor should they necessarily be the first technique you try. There are many other ways to keep individuals with dementia calm and help them pursue activities that bring them joy.

Often, doctors will encourage caretakers and people living with dementia to engage in specific activities that have been shown to calm people with Alzheimer’s or other related diseases. For example, music therapy has been proven to release dopamine, the “feel good chemical,” in the brain.

Aromatherapy can also be used, either on its own or as a complement to drug therapy. This means using high-grade essential oils, either on the skin or in a diffuser that spreads it into the air. Smells like lavender or vanilla can decrease agitation and improve sleep, while vetiver, cedarwood or rosemary can help with focus.

Finally, a gentle touch can also be extremely effective when someone is confused or upset. Caregivers can offer a soft back rub to soothe a friend or family member who may be triggered by a stressful situation or unforeseen change. Pets are also highly effective, as they can cuddle up next to someone and provide a reassuring presence when fellow humans are overwhelming.

Find the Dementia Care Regimen that Works For You

No instance of dementia is the same. Individuals react differently to the disease and the medication used to treat it. It can take time to create a combination of drug and behavioral treatments that work.

Many times, the best, most calming way to approach dementia is to find a comfortable, secure dementia care community. At The Cabana at Jensen Dunes, we know just how important a comfortable home is for individuals with dementia. That’s why we’ve designed our Florida memory care community to include all the comforts of home with the safety and security needed when dealing with dementia.

At The Cabana, you’ll find spacious hallways, relaxing routines and dementia care programs designed to help individuals with memory impairments engage and improve cognition. You’ll also find highly trained staff that can help with medication management, ensuring your relative or friend takes their medication in the correct dose at the correct time every day.

For more information on memory care communities like The Cabana, download our free Memory Care Guide or contact us online. Our team will be happy to answer your questions and help you learn more about how a comfortable home can work with dementia medication to improve quality of life for the people you care about most.