Treating Behavioural Problems in Alzheimer’s Dementia


More than 90 per cent of people with Alzheimer’s disease experience behavioural problems.

Alzheimer’s Society Canada estimates that 564,000 Canadians are living with dementia, and that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type. Neuropsychiatric symptoms including irritability, restlessness, frustration, pacing, inability to co-operate, nervousness, delusions, hallucinations, agitation or even aggression are all due to biological changes in the brain. These symptoms are the main reason why people with Alzheimer’s disease end up in emergency rooms, are hospitalized and have to move from their homes to long-term care facilities.

At the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Memory Clinic, patients can get access to specialized treatment options without long wait times. Further, they can receive close monitoring and individualized care through participation in the clinical research program. The CAMH Memory Clinic is conducting a study that is exploring a new option for treatment of those with Alzheimer’s disease and neuropsychiatric symptoms.

The ‘Escitalopram for Agitation in Alzheimer’s disease (S-CitAD)’ study happening right now at CAMH and at other sites in the US and Canada will help us better understand how both medication and non-medication options can improve treatment for this disabling disorder. The medication chosen for this study is an anti-depressant called Escitalopram. Preliminary studies suggest that Escitalopram is likely to be safe and effective treatment of some neuropsychiatric symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease. This is an approved medication in Canada but not currently for the indication of treating agitation in Alzheimer’s disease. Like most medications, there are potential side effects.

The 12-week study funded by the National Institute of Aging in the US, is actively recruiting participants at CAMH. As part of the study, participants receive one-on-one counselling, which includes caregiver education and 24/7 access to expert advice. If counselling is not fully effective, participants may receive Escitalopram in addition to counselling for the remainder of the study period.

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