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  • Writer's pictureRichard Kadri-Langford

Drug-free treatments for Alzheimer’s

Although ongoing research is helping to further our understanding of Alzheimer’s, at present it has to be seen as a progressive disease. Nevertheless, that research has thrown up some therapies which can either help to delay the progress of Alzheimer’s or to help with the quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones.

Whilst drug therapies are available, the Alzheimer’s Society recommends that non-drug approaches should be tried first, particularly when dealing with some of the mood and behavioural changes which can occur in the early stages.[1] These can include depression and anxiety, changes in perception, sleep problems and social withdrawal.

So what options are available?

One Japanese study offered participants a range of therapies from physical exercise, to role playing, horticultural therapy, and self-cognitive training. At the same time the study’s authors made sure that patients had access to good food and nutrition.[2] The study showed that these drug-free interventions resulted in an improvement in cognitive functions.

Reading across a variety of studies, cognitive behaviour therapy is recommended to help people to come to terms with being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Taken alongside cognitive stimulation therapies such as puzzles or word games, these therapies can help to improve recall and reduce behavioural problems.[3] As mentioned above, the value of exercise also cannot be ignored with one review demonstrating that exercise can help both with the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia and with daily living.[4]

However, there is a caveat and that is that these types of therapies tend to work best on individuals with mild to moderate dementia. The earlier that Alzheimer’s is diagnosed therefore the quicker that cognitive interventions can start to have an effect. That’s where devices such as the hand-held screening device which Occuity intends to investigate might help. Being able to detect Alzheimer’s in the early stages enables therapeutic treatments to begin as soon as possible. And with every individual’s condition developing at a different rate, early detection could also help to deliver patient-centric therapies.

One area which shouldn’t be neglected is the importance of providing appropriate support to caregivers.[5] Understanding the positive effect of good nutrition, exercise, and cognitive therapies can help carers to provide the most appropriate environment for Alzheimer’s patients, enabling them to live more active lives in their homes for longer than otherwise might be the case.

With an ageing global population, Alzheimer's disease is one of humanity's greatest healthcare challenges. As mentioned earlier as part of our technology roadmap, we intend to apply our technology for use in a device that enables screening in non-clinical settings such as pharmacies and care homes for the early signs of Alzheimer's.

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