Chinese medicine treatments improve dementia patients’ quality of life

Source: Taipei Medical University Hospital

Published on 2019-11-27

Dementia is a major problem worldwide. 

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, the number of dementia cases increased by 10 million in 2017. The group also estimated that a new dementia diagnosis occurs every three seconds on average.

In the early stages of dementia, patients have short-term memory loss, often forgetting things they intended to do, miscalculating when counting out money, and their judgment becomes worse. There are not only issues with daily life, but they also cannot maintain their previous interests. As the symptoms progress, patients will become confused by times and locations, become worse at recognizing people, and will suffer from hallucinations and delusions that cause difficulties in communicating with family members. In the end, patients with severe dementia cannot use language or the toilet, and are unable to eat or swallow as their muscles become stiff and atrophied.

Dr. Shan-Hong Wu (吳善弘), Traditional Chinese Medicine, TMU Hospital

The goal of Chinese medical treatment is to help dementia patients enjoy a better quality of life at different disease stages by slowing deterioration of memory and cognitive loss, reducing emotional problems and frequency of hallucinations, and maintaining skills required for daily life. In addition to using Chinese medicine and acupuncture, auricular points are also targeted to help improve conditions.

Acupuncture is used to treat dementia patients

Acupuncture reportedly can improve the cognitive function of some Alzheimer’s patients by reducing the severity of vascular dementia, improving brain waves of these patients. Besides targeting acupuncture points, clinical treatments also target areas linked to motor functions, trembling, language, vertigo and hearing. These treatments can be personalized to promote limb function, maintain muscle strength and language abilities, increase body control, or suppress limb and body tremors. The auricular points can help maintain the patient’s ability to eat and cooperate with the caregiver. Frequently targeting the heart point, subcortex and shenmen areas can help stabilize moods and address anxiety and sleep deprivation.

Dementia is suitable for joint Western and Chinese medical treatment where the neurology and psychology departments have good imaging tools to ascertain the type and severity of dementia, and also have more detailed evaluation scales. After understanding the patient’s conditions, Chinese medicine can provide the best intervention, and combined with Western medical treatment it can improve patients’ lives while reducing caregiver burdens.

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