SHEFFIELD, England – About 6 million people in the United States suffer from dementia, along with 50 million people worldwide. There is currently no cure for degenerative disease, and medical treatments often have side effects such as vomiting, loss of appetite, and muscle pain. Today, researchers say patients can benefit greatly from a type of treatment that doesn’t have such drawbacks and helps their brains avoid further decline.
A new study suggests that mixing with other people helps dementia patients stay alive and fend off depression. Scientists say the type of treatment known as “cognitive stimulation” could make life with dementia easier for hundreds of thousands of people.
“Dementia is one of the biggest global challenges we face,” lead author Dr Claudia von Bastian of the University of Sheffield said in a statement. “Our research points out that cognitive stimulation can be a safe, relatively inexpensive, and accessible treatment to help reduce some of the main symptoms of dementia and may even alleviate symptoms of depression.”
Researchers analyzed the use of cognitive stimulation as an effective treatment for people with dementia. They found that involving patients in social and group activities helped fight depression and boost overall cognition.
Global cognition refers to five types of brain functions: attention, memory, fluency, language, and awareness. âIt’s great that governments now recognize the importance of living well with dementia. We’ve seen a lot more energy and resources put into developing initiatives to support this, like cognitive stimulation, which is now widely used around the world, ânotes co-author Dr Ben Hicks of Brighton. and Sussex Medical School.
âWe still need to know more about the key ingredients of cognitive stimulation that lead to these benefits and how they influence the progression of dementia. However, the absence of negative side effects and the low costs of this treatment mean that the benefits are obvious, âadds Dr von Bastian.
More research is needed to determine whether cognitive stimulation and other non-pharmaceutical treatments could help the growing number of people with dementia.
âOur research is the first to comprehensively interrogate the evidence base on its effectiveness, using the most recent statistical techniques. While early signs are positive, there is an urgent need to improve the rigor of evaluative research and better assess the long-term benefits of cognitive stimulation. People with dementia need effective treatments and, as a research community, this is what we have to offer them, âadded Dr Hicks.
South West News Service writer Tom Campbell contributed to this report.