Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Dementia

In the world of Alzheimer's disease, there are few medications that have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat it. And the success of these medications is varied and limited. So, what else can you do if you or a loved one has Alzheimer's or a related dementia? One option is to consider complementary and alternative therapies.

Alternative and Complimentary Treatments for Alzheimer's
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What's Considered a Complementary or Alternative Therapy

It depends on whom you ask, when you ask the question, and in which country it's asked. Generally, these are treatment methods to address symptoms of a disease that may or may not involve natural herbs and supplements, as well as different approaches outside of mainstream medicine to improve someone's functioning and quality of life.

In Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia, complementary and alternative approaches can target cognition as well as the behavioral, emotional and psychological symptoms that often accompany dementia.

Difference Between Complementary and Alternative Treatments

Most people use these terms interchangeably, but they technically refer to different approaches.

Complementary generally means that the approach or treatment is used alongside traditional medical care. For example, an individual may be receiving both Exelon (Rivastigmine) and coconut oil.

Alternative therapy is a term usually used when a treatment is used in place of conventional medical care. An example of an alternative therapy is eliminating medications and using acupuncture and herbal supplements to treat Alzheimer's disease.

What is classified as a complementary therapy may change over time as an approach gradually becomes more integrated into traditional medical care.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies Used to Treat Dementia


In order to be included in this list, each treatment was required to have scientifically demonstrated some amount of effectiveness in dementia. However, that effectiveness varies with each of these approaches and with each individual.

Some reviews of complementary and alternative approaches conclude that research is limited and doesn't strongly support these treatments, especially if the goal is improved cognition. But often, families and those living with dementia express a desire to try them with the goal of improving quality of life, which has been connected with several of these approaches.

A Word from Verywell

It's important to note that some of the complementary and alternative approaches to dementia may tout benefits that have not yet been proven through scientific research studies as effective in treating dementia.

Additionally, with herbal and vitamin supplements, you should always ask your physician about the specific combination of medications and supplements you hope to take since natural substances can significantly (and potentially negatively) interact with medications.

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Article Sources
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