The most up-to-date Alzheimer’s data is sobering. The illness is now the 6th leading cause of death, overtaking both breast cancer and prostate cancer put together. And though deaths from many other chronic health conditions, like heart disease, are decreasing, those from Alzheimer’s have escalated in excess of 100%. The toll the illness takes on family caregivers is equally astonishing, with well over 16 million Americans providing over 18 billion hours of care for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease.
While we have yet to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are two distinct types of treatment plans that may help reduce some of the more prevalent symptoms. If your parent happens to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the following are a few options a doctor may propose:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors: By blocking the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical required for memory, attention, learning and muscle activity, these prescription medications can provide some benefit within the mild to moderate phases of Alzheimer’s for a lot of patients. Dr. Zaldy Tan, medical director of the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, warns, however, to bear in mind that benefits are going to be limited 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 makes clear. Included in this class of medications are galantamine (Razadyne), donepezil (Aricept) and rivastigmine (Exelon).
- Memantine: In the moderate to severe phases of the disease, the doctor may prescribe memantine (Namenda) that takes an alternate approach versus the cholinesterase inhibitors, preventing the overstimulation of glutamate NMDA receptors which in turn may also help restore limited memory function. Doctors often add memantine to a patient’s treatment plan in addition to a cholinesterase inhibitor when the disease advances.
Identifying the effectiveness of these treatments takes persistence, as both take four to six weeks before results are realized. And, it is crucial to examine the benefits versus any unfavorable side effects that might feature confusion and constipation for memantine, and nausea, vomiting and a decreased heart rate with cholinesterase inhibitors.
One of the most effective strategies to support people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease live life to the fullest is through employing the services of a specially qualified caregiver who understands and can help manage the varied struggles of dementia. Call North River Home Care’s dedicated senior care team in Cape Cod, Norwell, Boston, and the surrounding areas for more information on our highly trained, compassionate Alzheimer’s care services for seniors. View our full service area here.