Dementia: Natural Remedies May Boost Quality of Life (Part 1 of 2)

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s dementia every 66 seconds. By mid-century, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds. And, because of the increasing number of people age 65 and older in the United States, the number of new cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is projected to soar.

If you’re a caregiver for someone with dementia, you probably know that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementias is exceptionally demanding. Dementia is a gradual, degrading disease, and it only gets worse. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia, which often makes it a long, painful journey for both the affected and their family members and caregivers.

On a positive note, when it comes to dementia (including Alzheimer’s and other forms), research shows that when more formal pharmaceutical treatments are complemented by natural remedies and healthy habits, greater improvement can often be seen. In fact, it has been shown that some of the most effective home remedies for dementia include the use of certain food products such as ginseng, salvia, bananas, cinnamon extract, coconut oil, berries, almonds, pumpkin, leafy greens, beans, and kale, as well as behavior changes, including breaking routine, creative stimulation, Reiki, meditation, and aromatherapy. In this Part 1, we’ll take a closer look at some of these natural remedies for dementia. In part 2, we’ll look at some additional natural remedies that are still natural, but are more “medicinal” in nature because you typically take them in a pill form, including vitamin B12, ginkgo, fish oil, club moss, turmeric, and perhaps most surprisingly, lithium.

Please note before reading: As I mentioned, there is no known cure for dementia. These home remedies are intended to boost quality of life and delay or slow the progression of dementia. As always, ask your doctor before starting any natural remedies, as even natural remedies can have unwanted side effects such as negative impact on the liver and kidneys.

Salvia: One of the major issues with any neurocognitive impairment is the lack of blood flow in parts of the brain that are responsible for memory and cognition. Salvia (a plant that is part of the mint family) can increase blood flow in parts of the brain and slow the decline that comes as a result of dementia.

Coconut Oil: Nerve damage typically complicates symptoms of dementia. Coconut oil, which has nerve-improving powers, can help boost communication with the brain and ensure normal cognition for those suffering from early signs of dementia.

Kale: Kale is a rich source of both folate and carotenoids, which lower homocysteine levels. Homocysteine has been directly linked with cognitive impairment, so anything to combat that substance is a welcome relief to dementia patients.

Caffeine: A study done in Finland found that subjects who drank three to five cups of coffee a day had a 65% lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. But too much coffee makes it hard to sleep, and sleep is important for brain health. Moderation is key.

Pumpkin and other similar squash species contain iron and folate, both of which are important for circulation and cognitive function.

Spinach and other leafy green vegetables contain folate and B9, which have both been linked to boosted cognitive function and lowered levels of depression, which can be a major side effect of dementia, pulling sufferers deeper into themselves, and further limiting their engagement with the world.

Bananas: As a rich source of potassium, bananas represent a wonderful way to boost oxygenated blood flow to the brain, thus improving cognition, memory, and concentration.

Cinnamon Extract: Cinnamon extract has been proven to reduce plaque levels in the brain, thus boosting memory and cognition.

Nuts are some of the best concentrated sources of minerals and unique antioxidants, including magnesium, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B6. A solid boost of these cognition-enhancing compounds is easy with a handful of almonds, walnuts, or peanuts! All nuts are most nutritious when eaten raw and not roasted (note that raw nuts are easily found in health food stores and online).

Life changes and other therapies

Aromatherapy: Limited research has been dedicated to aromatherapy’s effects on dementia, but there is plenty of anecdotal proof, and aromatherapy has been linked to lower levels of stress hormones, anxiety, and depression, as well as boosted cognitive performance and memory.

Creative Stimulation: By engaging in creative stimulation, such as learning a new skill, pursuing a new hobby, or seeking a new area of intellectual exploration, you can create new neural pathways and strengthen the network of cognition that breaks down in dementia sufferers.

Breaking Routine: Falling into a routine can be a dangerous habit for people as they get older, eliminating new experiences, conversations, and topics. By narrowing your life to a smaller scope of knowledge and communication, the brain stops maintaining those unused portions, so continually challenge yourself to keep your brain active and fresh!

Meditation: While research is still ongoing in terms of meditation’s direct effects on dementia, meditation is linked to better circulation, reduced anxiety, improved memory, and overall metabolic health, and it certainly never hurts to relax and clear your mind for a while.

Exercise: Daily brisk walks can lower a person’s risk for dementia by up to 45%. The body secretes protective chemicals during physical activity—including a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is thought to spark the growth of neurons.

Reiki: Research shows that Reiki and other energy therapies significantly aid people with dementia and their caregivers. Published, peer-reviewed research has shown that Reiki can help address memory issues in people with mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer’s. There are also several other published studies that demonstrate that Reiki helps both depression and anxiety both among people with chronic medical issues, as well as in those do not. One of the often reported outcomes of Reiki treatment is a state of calm relaxation. Since dementia patients can have problems with agitation, Reiki’s calming influence can be quite helpful.

Reiki has been such a powerful healing force in my life that I became a Reiki Master and founded a 501(c)(3) non-profit called Reiki Outreach Services for Elders (ROSE), with a powerful mission to bring the healing power of Reiki to elders in elder-centric facilities. Learn more here.

Slowing Down Dementia

As you can see from the long list of food products, life changes, and alternative treatments above, you can possibly reduce your risk of dementia through a combination of healthy habits, including eating right, exercising, and staying mentally and socially active. By leading a brain-healthy lifestyle, you may be able to prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and slow down the process of deterioration.

Medicaid Asset Protection

Do you have a loved one who is suffering from dementia? Persons with dementia and their families face special legal and financial needs. At the Farr Law Firm, we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from dementia and their loved ones. We help protect the family’s hard-earned assets while maintaining your loved one’s comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring eligibility for critical government benefits such as Medicaid and Veterans Aid and Attendance. Please call us as soon as possible to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Fairfax Medicaid Planning: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Medicaid Planning: 540-479-1435
Rockville Medicaid Planning: 301-519-8041
DC Medicaid Planning: 202-587-2797

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