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J Am Board Fam Med. 2012 May-Jun;25(3):350-66. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2012.03.100183.

Guidelines for the management of cognitive and behavioral problems in dementia.

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  • 1Division of Neurology, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA.


Family physicians play a crucial role in the management and ongoing care of patients with Alzheimer disease (AD). This article reviews the effects of nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic interventions on the functional abilities and behavior of patients with dementia and how these can be implemented into clinical practice. Nonpharmacologic interventions are recommended as the initial strategy for managing problematic behaviors. Strategies for improving behavior include ensuring that the patient's environment is safe, calm, and predictable; removing environmental stressors; and identifying and avoiding situations that agitate or frighten the patient. Simple interventions include redirecting and refocusing the patient, increasing social interaction, establishing regular sleep habits, eliminating sources of conflict and frustration, and establishing rewards for successes. The effectiveness of long-term behavioral management is largely dependent on the caregiver; as such, it is important to assess the role and needs of the caregiver. Because currently available therapies cannot reverse the pathologic processes of AD, the primary objective of pharmacotherapy is to preserve cognitive and functional ability, minimize behavioral disturbances, and slow disease progression. Cholinesterase inhibitors represent first-line therapy for patients with mild to moderate AD, whereas a glutamate N-methyl D-aspartate antagonist is used in the treatment of moderate to severe AD. Looking forward, there are a number of therapies in development aimed at modifying the disease course; these include amyloid-lowering drugs, τ-based and neuroprotective approaches, acetylcholine agonists, and mitochondrial inhibitors.

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