At the moment there are no drugs to treat the underlying disease in frontotemporal dementia. Some medications may help with some symptoms, for example low mood and problems sleeping.
Because there are currently no medications available to treat frontotemporal dementia, the focus is to help people with the disease manage their symptoms in everyday life.
This support can come from a range of places, including the NHS and social services, as well as specialist support groups and local groups or organisations in your community.
Support to manage symptoms, as well as sharing experiences with others in a similar situation, can be a real help. Occupational therapists, speech therapists or cognitive behavioural therapists can also help you to maintain your independence for as long as possible.
Speech therapists can also give advice about communication techniques for people with language problems. Some people find it helps to use alternative communication methods, including specialist smartphone and tablet apps, spelling boards and simpler approaches like picture cards.
Physical symptoms of FTD, such as problems swallowing or moving, may need careful management. You may be offered physiotherapy to help with these symptoms.
Speak to your doctor about referral onto these therapists.
Non-drug treatments for FTD
There are several types of cognitive therapy that may benefit people with frontotemporal dementia. Cognitive skills can be described as thinking skills, and cognition is a word used to describe thought processes.
Cognitive stimulation activities are designed to stimulate thinking skills and engage people who have dementia. They are often group-based and include games, with an emphasis on enjoyment. Cognitive stimulation can be provided by health or social care staff with appropriate training.
The benefits of cognitive stimulation for people with dementia could include improvement in memory, thinking skills and quality of life.
Agitation, anxiety and aggression
Some people with FTD experience agitation, aggression, sleep disturbances and other behavioural symptoms.
While these symptoms can be difficult for the person living with dementia and their loved ones, there are simple things that might help. It may be possible to identify the cause or trigger of aggression or agitation. A person’s physical health may affect their behaviour – for example pain, being constipated or needing the toilet. Someone’s surroundings can also affect their behaviour, as well as their feelings towards certain situations.
Finding out if there are triggers that cause aggressive or agitated behaviour means it might be possible to remove, treat or avoid them. Mild behavioural symptoms can often be helped with adjustments to physical surroundings, reassurance or changes to daily routine. Possible triggers could include:
- undetected pain or discomfort
- social situations
- factors in the environment
- disruption to routine.
In rare cases, antipsychotic drugs may be used to relieve severe symptoms. These drugs are not suitable for everyone so your doctor will carefully consider what is appropriate. They can have serious side-effects and their use should be carefully monitored.
Treatments for dementia
Read more about treatments for dementia, including information on treating depression, anxiety and agitation and for information on antipsychotics.
What is frontotemporal dementia?
Information in this introductory booklet is for anyone who wants to know more about frontotemporal dementia (FTD). This includes people living with FTD, their carers, families and friends.
Order health information
Alzheimer’s Research UK has a wide range of information about dementia. Order booklets or download them from our online form.
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