The most up-to-date Alzheimer’s statistics are worrying. The illness has become the sixth leading cause of death, overtaking both breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. And even though deaths from several chronic conditions, like cardiovascular illnesses, are decreasing, those from Alzheimer’s have increased in excess of 100%. The toll the disease takes on family caregivers is equally astonishing, with over 16 million Americans delivering over 18 billion hours of caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
Though we have yet to find an end to Alzheimer’s disease, there are a couple of distinct kinds of treatment options for Alzheimer’s that may help ease a few of the more prevalent symptoms. If your parent is identified as having Alzheimer’s, there are a few options your doctor may propose:
- Cholinesterase inhibitors: By blocking the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical required for memory, attention, learning and muscle activity, these treatments can offer some benefit in the mild to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s for many patients. Dr. Zaldy Tan, medical director of the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, cautions, however, to be aware that results are going to be modest 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 periods of the disease, the physician may recommend memantine (Namenda), which takes a unique approach in comparison to cholinesterase inhibitors, preventing the overstimulation of glutamate NMDA receptors which in turn often helps regain limited memory functionality. Doctors will frequently add memantine to a patient’s care plan combined with a cholinesterase inhibitor when the disease progresses.
Determining the effectiveness of these treatments calls for patience, as both take 4 – 6 weeks before benefits may be realized. And, it is imperative to weigh the benefits versus any adverse side effects, which may involve confusion and constipation in memantine, and nausea, vomiting and a reduced heart rate with cholinesterase inhibitors.
One of the most effective ways to support individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in living life to the fullest is by employing the services of a specially trained dementia caregiver who understands the disease and who will help manage the varied struggles of dementia. Contact Montebello Home Care for more information about our highly trained, compassionate Alzheimer’s care services for seniors and to learn more about our memory care in Orange and the surrounding areas.