Q: I care for someone with vascular dementia. She is also suffering depression. I wondered if acupuncture would help her?
A: There is some evidence that acupuncture may have a role to play in helping with vascular dementia. A Cochrane review published in 2007 http://www.thecochranelibrary.com/userfiles/ccoch/file/Acupuncture_ancient_traditions/CD004987.pdf seemed to show that there were benefits, but that the evidence was not of sufficiently good quality to make definite claims. Similarly with depression, as our factsheet shows http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/index.php?option=com_k2&;view=item&id=1277:depression&Itemid=106 there is some evidence that acupuncture can help, but the trials are not yet designed with enough clarity to make a definite claim to efficacy. The real strength of Chinese medicine, though, is not that it treats named conditions, but that it treats people with named conditions, and its increasing popularity is in quite a direct way related to the time spent and care taken in finding out what makes this individual patient tick, and of looking at ways of balancing the body's energies to make the whole system function better. The interaction with the patient is integral to this, and older patients are often helped a great deal simply by the fact that their health professional is prepared to spend more time with them. This is not unique to Chinese medicine, and the best western medicine can do the same. In the Chinese medical approach this time and attention is a part of what the average practitioner does as a matter of course, and the reality is that what is occasionally dismissed as a 'non-specific effect', not to do with acupuncture itself but how it is delivered, can be a very powerful force for encouraging improvement. There are a number of issues on which your question doesn't quite provide enough information for comment - would the person need home visits or are they mobile, are they able to give informed consent to treatment, are they taking serious medications, etc - which might determine how available treatment was. If your client is interested, however, we are sure that a BAcC member local to you will be happy to give specific advice and help you to identify a practitioner able to provide what your client may want.
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