A neurological disease thought to be the most common form of dementia in the elderly, Alzheimer’s disease is incurable. Treatment, however is possible and can alleviate the symptoms to some extent ‘ which can ease the heavy burden faced by caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients. There are both pharmaceutical and non-drug treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease.
First, it is vital for the caregiver to understand that the Alzheimer’s patient does not act the way that they do intentionally. Anger and depression are common behavioral changes exhibited by sufferers, and knowing and coping with this is a large part of Alzheimer’s treatments.
A non-drug method of Alzheimer’s treatments is to aid the afflicted in adapting to their situation and their surroundings. Alzheimer’s patients often have a hard time dealing with loud noises and unfamiliar situations. If the caregiver can make some accommodation to fit the environment to comfort the patient, this can be very helpful to patient and caregiver alike.
Alzheimer’s symptoms can be split into two basic categories, these being Behavioral and Cognitive. Behavior, of course relates to the way the patient acts while Cognitive symptoms effect how the patient thinks, remembers and plans.
Drug therapy Alzheimer’s treatments are intended to slow the chemical processes that are going on in the patient’s brain, rather than being aimed at changing the behavior of the patient. Cholinesterase inhibitors are used in treating the early stages of the disease and include Galantamine (aka Razadyne) and Rivastigmine (aka Exelon). The drug Donepezil (Aricent) is used in all three stages of the disease.
Cholinesterase inhibitors work to block the prevention of acetylcholine from breaking down. This chemical is active in the brain for memory and learning functions. These drugs keep levels of acetylcholine high, keeping the patient capable of communication.
Memantine (aka Namenda) acts to control glutamate. This drug is used to prevent the breakdown of this chemical which helps Alzheimer’s patients learn new facts and communicate effectively. This chemical breaks down very quickly in Alzheimer’s patient’s brains, which makes this an important medication.
Like most medicines, these also come with side effects. Commonly experienced ones include nausea, loss of appetite, dizziness and headaches. There may also be interactions with other drugs taken by the patient. The doctor and pharmacist filling the prescription should always be kept informed about any and every drug the patient is currently taking. This way, drug interactions can be either prevented, or quickly recognized should they occur.
The dosage given of any of these drugs will begin at a low dosage and gradually increase to the limit of what the patient can tolerate, and the medication is performing as intended.
Drug and non-drug Alzheimer’s treatments in tandem will give an Alzheimer’s sufferer the highest odds of being able to enjoy some of the time that they have left and reduce the distress for patient and caregiver alike. This is a disease which causes an incredible amount of suffering and exhaustion not only for the patient, but for the caregiver. The best Alzheimer’s treatment plans will give some relief to both.