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How do you manage Alzheimer's disease?

Posted by: Prime Medic Inc. on October 01, 2021

Please note: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your doctor about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Alzheimer's disease is a brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Alzheimer's disease currently cannot be cured. Medications may help reduce symptoms and slow memory loss. Treatments that don't use medication may also help.

One group of medications for Alzheimer's disease (called cholinesterase inhibitors) work by increasing the level of a brain chemical, acetylcholine, that is believed to help with memory and thinking. Three medications that work in this way have been approved to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease: rivastigmine, galantamine, and donepezil. Donepezil is also approved to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer's. One or two out of every 10 people who take these medications may find that the drug causes nausea and vomiting. Other side effects may include loss of appetite, diarrhea, and slowed heart rate. One medication, memantine, is approved to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease in combination with donepezil. Memantine may help some people with Alzheimer's disease keep doing some daily activities, such as going to the bathroom on their own, longer than they otherwise would. The most common side effects of memantine are dizziness, headaches, confusion, diarrhea, and constipation. Other side effects may include pain, gaining weight, feeling tired, and seeing or hearing things that aren't real. Because memantine works in a different way than other medications for Alzheimer's disease, doctors may prescribe it in combination with another medication, donepezil. Taking two drugs may relieve Alzheimer's symptoms for longer than taking just one. Memantine works in a different way than other medications for Alzheimer's disease. People with Alzheimer's disease may have too much of a chemical called glutamate in the brain. Too much glutamate can kill brain cells. Memantine works by keeping the amount of glutamate in the brain under control. Medications for Alzheimer's disease don't work for everyone. Some people may do better on one drug than on another. So if one drug doesn't seem to help, the doctor may suggest switching to a different one. New treatments for Alzheimer's disease are being studied in clinical trials. Ask your doctor if you or your loved one might benefit from enrolling in a clinical trial.

Treatments that don't use medication can also help people with Alzheimer's disease in many ways. They can help you sleep better, feel calmer and happier, and possibly keep doing daily activities for longer. These options can include: Adjusting lighting to improve sleep; listening to favorite music may also help; looking at photos and talking about past life events may improve mood. Other options include Playing games, doing puzzles, and using a calendar, all of which can improve alertness. Being physically active can help improve attention, memory, speech, and other mental skills. Brain exercises done with a small group of people may improve mood and slow the loss of mental skills.

Active management of Alzheimer’s disease means managing the symptoms and behavior caused by Alzheimer's disease in several different ways. Studies show that active management helps both people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers and loved ones feel better and get more out of life.

Tags: Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, acetylcholine, rivastigmine, galantamine, donepezil, memantine, glutamate, brain exercises, mental skills, active management.

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Jointly provided by the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower and Prime Medic Inc., in collaboration with Postgraduate Institute for Medicine.

This activity is supported by an independent educational grant from Biogen Idec.

This website is part of the Animated Patient™ series developed by Prime Medic Inc., to provide highly visual formats of learning for patients to improve their understanding, make informed decisions, and partner with their healthcare professionals for optimal outcomes.