Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Dementia Patients
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the go-to treatment for dementia patients, as it focuses on specific behaviors and boosts confidence and well-being that can reduce depressive symptoms and slow cognitive decline. CBT therapists work closely with their patients to change their behavior by challenging negative thoughts and beliefs. They may also employ techniques like life review or cognitive restructuring in order to enhance quality of life for these individuals.
Depression in dementia is a common symptom that can wreak havoc on relationships and decrease independence. Furthermore, the condition increases the likelihood of nursing home placement for those affected by dementia, as well as cause caregivers anxiety and stress. Fortunately, there are numerous psychological and social treatments available for dementia.
A recent study has demonstrated that cognitive behavioral therapy may be effective at decreasing depression among dementia patients. The researchers discovered that the treatment improved quality of life, reduced mental health symptoms and reduced caregivers’ stress levels.
This study involved 50 patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease and their caregiver, randomly assigned to either CBT or a control condition. Participants received 15 weeks of treatment before being followed up at 6 months for follow-up.
CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is a series of therapy sessions designed to alter patients’ negative beliefs and thoughts. Through CBT, patients can change their perspective about themselves, the world, and the future (known as the ‘cognitive triad’).
Dr Sunil Bhar, PhD and director of the Center for Cognitive Therapy at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, believes that depression in people living with dementia can cause them to lose touch with their lives and lead to poor self-image and feelings of isolation. Furthermore, individuals suffering from depression may have decreased receptivity towards others which adds further stress and frustration.
In addition to depression, people living with dementia may also experience other emotional disorders like irritability, anger and anxiety. These conditions can be severe and interfere with daily functioning; further compounding the effects of dementia.
Patients with dementia are frequently diagnosed with anxiety and depression. These can cause decreased independence, relationship difficulties and an increased likelihood of nursing home placement.
The research sought to create a cognitive behavioral therapy manual for anxiety in dementia and determine its feasibility through a randomised controlled trial. The trial compared 10 sessions of the manual with an untreated control group who received treatment as usual (TAU).
Results demonstrated that when compared with TAU, the treatment significantly reduced anxiety at 15 weeks and depression at 6 months. It was cost neutral and feasible; however, a fully powered RCT is necessary to confirm these results.
This trial marks the first time cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven effective for dementia patients with anxiety, making it more accessible and useful to a range of individuals with the disorder.