Today, an estimated 5.8 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease. And though there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s disease or a way to slow its progression, Princeton Health Care Center in West Virginia is familiar with drug and non-drug options that may help treat symptoms. These options are a huge boon to the quality of life for both the patient and their loved ones.
Treating Mild to Moderate Alzheimer’s
Doctors usually start patients at low drug doses and gradually increase the dosage based on how well a patient tolerates the drug. However, the higher the dose, the more likely side effects are to occur. For mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, medications called cholinesterase inhibitors are prescribed for treatment. These drugs may help reduce certain symptoms and assist with some behavioral symptoms. Although scientists are still learning how cholinesterase inhibitors work in conjunction with Alzheimer’s disease, research indicates that they stymie the breakdown of acetylcholine – a brain chemical connected to memory and thinking, and which is produced in lower amounts as Alzheimer’s spreads.
Several different types of cholinesterase inhibitors exist, and they work in similar fashion. So, while switching from one type to another likely won’t produce a radical difference, a patient may respond better to one drug than another.
Treating Moderate to Severe Alzheimer’s
A medication called Namenda® is increasingly prescribed to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. Namenda is believed to regulate glutamate, an important brain chemical which when produced in excessive amounts could cause brain cell death. This drug has shown efficacy in decreasing a patient’s symptoms, which could allow users to function at a higher level for a longer time than without the medication. It’s believed that Namenda might also help a person in the moderate-to-severe stage to continue using the bathroom independently for several more months, a very welcome benefit.
In addition to Namenda, several more drugs have been approved by the FDA for treating moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. As research continues, it’s hoped that future drugs will have an increasing level of effectiveness in treating Alzheimer’s.
Managing Behavioral Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Regarding the management of behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, experts believe that non-medicinal approaches should be explored first – and that drugs should be introduced only if these holistic strategies fail to stimulate change or progress. Common behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s include sleeplessness, wandering, and agitation, as well as anxiety, aggression, and depression. Scientists are researching the causes of these symptoms, and new medicinal and non-medicinal management techniques. It’s agreed that directly treating an Alzheimer patient’s behavioral symptoms can make them much more amenable to themselves and others.
What Does The Future Hold?
For scientists today, discovering the underlying processes of Alzheimer’s disease is becoming just as important as treating symptoms. Specialists worldwide are developing and testing new interventions such as immunization therapy, cognitive training, physical activity, and treatments for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The future looks bright, and Princeton Health Care Center is dedicated to being at the forefront of treatment and management options for our residents.