The most recent Alzheimer’s statistics are sobering. The disease is now the 6th leading cause of death, rising above both breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. And while deaths from other chronic conditions, such as heart disease, are declining, those from Alzheimer’s have increased by more than 100%. The toll the disease takes on family caregivers is equally staggering, with over 16 million Americans providing over 18 billion hours of care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Although we’ve yet to discover a cure, there are two distinct types of Alzheimer’s disease treatment options that can help ease some of the more prevalent symptoms. If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, here are two options the doctor may suggest:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors: By blocking the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical crucial for memory, attention, learning and muscle activity, these medications can provide some benefit in the mild to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s for some patients. Dr. Zaldy Tan, medical director of the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, cautions, however, to keep in mind that results will be moderate at best. “The best case scenario is that the patient’s memory and cognitive function may improve slightly to what it was six months to a year ago – it’s not going to turn back time,” he explains. Included in this class of medications are galantamine (Razadyne), donepezil (Aricept) and rivastigmine (Exelon).
- Memantine: In the moderate to severe stages of the disease, the doctor may prescribe memantine (Namenda) which takes a different approach than the cholinesterase inhibitors, preventing the overstimulation of glutamate NMDA receptors which in turn can help restore limited memory functionality. Doctors will often add memantine to a patient’s treatment plan in addition to a cholinesterase inhibitor as the disease progresses.
Determining the effectiveness of these medications requires patience, as both take 4 – 6 weeks before results will be realized. And, it’s important to weigh the benefits against any negative side effects, which can include confusion and constipation in memantine, and nausea, vomiting and a decreased heart rate with cholinesterase inhibitors.
One of the best ways to help those with Alzheimer’s disease live life to the fullest is by engaging the services of a specially trained caregiver who understands and can help manage the varied challenges of dementia. Contact Responsive Home Care online or call our care team at 954-486-6440 to learn more about our professional, compassionate services for seniors and how we provide the kind of dementia care Florida families recommend most.