World Alzheimer’s Day: Raising awareness about Non-Drug Interventions in Dementia Care

September 20, 2023
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This World Alzheimer’s Day, we hope to raise awareness about one of the most difficult challenges of living with Alzheimer’s and dementia: dealing with neuropsychiatric symptoms. Anxiety, agitation, “Sundowning”, aggression, sleep issues, and general feelings of restlessness have a huge impact on the daily lives of those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.These symptoms affect 98% of those living with dementia. While there is a growing number of medication specific interventions, they often come with the risk of adverse side effects compounding the challenges of care.

“Through our conversations with members of the Alzheimer’s community, we’ve learned that many individuals living with Alzheimer’s have little to no access to non-drug interventions,” stated Zach McMahon, CEO and Co-Founder of LUCID. He went on to share, “the majority of feedback is frustration that pills are always the ‘go-to’ strategy. Caregivers want accessible alternatives.”

Dr. Jennifer Stelter is a clinical psychologist, Johns Hopkins author, Dementia and Senior Living Consultant, and co-founder of the Dementia Connection Institute by NeuroEssence, LLC, whose mission is to bring innovative ways to educate others on dementia and approaches to care that are non-pharmacological. She notes, “People living with dementia are often overmedicated, because medication was the first tool used for many years when handling challenging response behaviors. However, we’ve learned that these medications are a band-aid as to why the response behaviors occurred, and they have many side effects that can cultivate more problems, like confusion, falls, sleep and appetite problems, isolation, and more. On the other hand, non-pharmacological tools can work faster than medication, nearly have no side effects, and allow any care partner to feel successful in connecting to that person.”

Music is a non-pharmacological antidote for symptoms of anxiety and agitation, providing a non-invasive way to induce calm and relaxing states. LUCID is developing LUC-101, a music-based digital therapeutic to be used by people living with dementia and their caregivers. LUC-101 will use familiar music curated by Emotion AI, as well as auditory beat stimulation (‘ABS’) to trigger nostalgia and reduce feelings of anxiety and agitation. Currently, LUC-101 is undergoing a clinical study to evaluate its efficacy at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute.

“It’s important to see more funding and research being allocated towards innovative therapies with lower risk profiles. There’s a massive demand for non-pharmaceutical therapies, but we need a cultural shift to support their use. While there is currently no cure for dementia, there are many opportunities to manage challenging symptoms, improve quality of life, and minimize impact for patients and caregivers,” said Zoë Thomson, LUCID’s Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer.

LUCID is a member of the AARP AgeTech Collaborative, the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization’s Capital Access Advisory Program, and is a Creative Destruction Lab graduate. The company recently secured funding from The Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) as part of their AgeTech cohort; intending to improve the quality of life for older adults, people living with dementia, and caregivers.