There are currently no medicines specifically to treat PPA, but there are treatments that might help with some of the symptoms.
For example, your doctor can refer you to a speech and language therapist. The therapist will assess your speech problems and how they are affecting you and your family. They will help you find other ways to communicate if speech is difficult, including the use of electronic devices. They can also help with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties.
People with all forms of dementia may be offered antidepressants, or non-drug treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Non-drug treatments for PPA
There are several types of cognitive therapy that may benefit people with 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.
Depression is common in all forms of dementia. Your doctor may consider recommending cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT provides an opportunity for people to talk about their worries and concerns with a specialist practitioner. It aims to help people develop different ways of thinking and behaving.
There may also be other therapies offered in your local area that could help; these might include exercise or group activities such as music therapy.
You may be offered an antidepressant drug, either as an alternative to CBT or in combination with it. There are different types, or classes, of antidepressant; some are not suitable for people with dementia. Your doctor will be able to advise you if an antidepressant could help and which type would be best.
Agitation, anxiety and aggression
Some people with PPA experience agitation, aggression, delusions (negative or mistaken beliefs), severe anxiety, hallucinations, sleep disturbances and other behavioural symptoms. They are also known as neuropsychiatric symptoms or behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD).
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.
Treatments for dementia
Read more about treatments for dementia, including information on treating depression, anxiety and agitation and for information on antipsychotics.
What is Primary progressive aphasia?
Information in this booklet is for anyone who wants to know more about primary progressive aphasia (PPA). This includes people living with PPA, 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.
This information was written in April 2020 and is due for review in April 2022. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.
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