During last week's Town Hall Forum for caregivers of loved ones with dementia, Dr. Daniel Sewell of the University of California, San Diego noted that one in three patients who come to his geriatrics center can trace new behavioral symptoms to a previously overlooked medical problem.
"When a person living with dementia develops a new behavior, we need to first ask: Is there something medically that's changed? And could this be responsible for the change in behavior?" he said.
Sometimes it's a medication that accounts for the change. Every medication, even aspirin, can trigger side effects. "As a person moves through the illness, their brain is changing and in six to 12 months they may not need some or any medications because the behavioral symptom may go away on its own," Dr. Sewell said.
When this is the case, medications are reduced gradually over a period of months and up to a year.