Non-Drug Approaches to Managing Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Image showing average life expectancy of men and women after Alzheimer's diagnosis

There is no set or guaranteed life-expectancy for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD).  Some reports suggest that life expectancy can be as long as 20 years beyond diagnosis, while others suggest that it can be half that, at only 10 years.  Consider also that from the time symptoms begin to appear, diagnosis may not occur until almost 3 years later.  No matter how long people live beyond the diagnosis, the cognitive decline can feel like it comes rapidly, and the need for solutions to manage symptoms of AD is a pressing concern given the global aging population.


Many patients and caregivers are searching for solutions to help manage the symptoms of AD, and despite ongoing research, there remains plenty of work to be done in developing pharmaceutical solutions to the progression of AD.  However, in our search for the latest innovations in the aging and brain health sector, CABHI has received a number of projects that aim to provide the aging and brain health sector with new ways to help manage symptoms of AD, without the use of pharmaceuticals.  Here are a few of the most exciting drug-free Alzheimer’s innovations that are currently in the CABHI pipeline offering support to both patients and their caregivers:


Virtual Calm: Using Virtual Reality to Reduce Dementia Distress

The Virtual Calm: Using Virtual Reality to Reduce Dementia Distress project recognizes that point of care homecare professionals have a unique perspective into the challenges that families encounter when facing Alzheimer’s Disease. This is particularly true when attempting to balance the provision of healthcare and supervision, while also attempting to engage and involve loved ones in activities. 

A recipient of CABHI funding via the Spark program, Virtual Calm: Using Virtual Reality to Reduce Dementia Distress builds on the evidence suggesting that 3D videos of serene environments may be an effective non-pharmacological tool for older adults in managing some of the neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia. This project aims to better understand the potential of 3D virtual reality scenarios as a tool to manage neuropsychiatric symptoms such as aggression, agitation and apathy – leading to more manageable symptoms, a reduction of caregiver frustration and burnout, and a better quality of life for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.


Advancing Recreation and Cognitive Engagement Through Technology

Established in 2007 in Washington, D.C., Linked Senior is the leading life enrichment platform for the senior care industry.  To date, the solutions has been deployed in 37 US states and Canada, and is now part of CABHI’s innovation pipeline. This solution is a platform application used by staff and families to engage residents with games, brain fitness, music therapy, reminiscing and other non-drug therapeutic interventions for an engaging high-touch, person-centered experience. Research done through this CABHI project will seek to answer: (1) Does Linked Senior use improve quality of life for those using the program versus non-users? (2) Is the degree of Linked Senior use associated with more positive outcomes among those using the program?


Learning the Ropes for Living with MCITM

Supported with $49,675 in CABHI funding, Learning the Ropes for Living with MCITM is a program focused on optimizing cognitive health through lifestyle choices, memory training, and psychosocial support. It is aimed at older adults and their close family members/friends who are living in the community and are experiencing Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).  The program content includes: Education about MCI and lifestyle factors for promoting cognitive health and reducing risk of dementia; Memory training involving practical strategies aimed at improving everyday remembering, such as memory for names, appointments, location of items, and things to do; Family support focused on discovering approaches for effectively living with a relative experiencing MCI.  This project is leveraging CABHI funding to increase the scalability and adoption of the program by making it available online.

The development of non-drug approaches to managing symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease is one area where CABHI is accelerating the pace of innovation in this sector.  The three projects listed above represent a small sliver of the 90 projects in the CABHI pipeline, all of which aim to provide older adults with a greater level of independence, while also providing the tools that allow them to age in the setting of their choice.   For a full list of CABHI’s innovation projects, visit our project page by clicking this link.


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