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Learn About Dementia Treatment Options

Prescription Medicine

Dementia caregivers need to be aware of these two dementia treatment options.

Recent statistics on Alzheimer’s disease are troubling; it has now become the 6th leading cause of death, surpassing both breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. And while deaths from a number of other chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, are declining, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have risen by more than 100%. The effects the condition has on caregivers providing dementia care is shocking as well, with over 16 million Americans providing over 18 billion hours of care for a loved one with the disease.

While we have yet to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are two types of dementia treatment options that can help alleviate some of the more challenging symptoms. The person you’re caring for may be taking:

  1. A cholinesterase inhibitor: By preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical that is essential for memory, attention, learning, and muscle activity, this type of treatment can offer some help 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, advises, however, to bear in mind that the benefits will likely to 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 makes clear. Included in this class of medications are galantamine (Razadyne), donepezil (Aricept) and rivastigmine (Exelon).
  2. Memantine: In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, the doctor may prescribe memantine (Namenda), which takes a different approach from a cholinesterase inhibitor, reducing the chance of overstimulation of glutamate NMDA receptors, which in turn can assist with rebuilding limited memory functionality. Physicians will frequently add this medication to a patient’s care plan along with a cholinesterase inhibitor as the disease progresses.

It takes time to determine the effectiveness of these dementia treatment options, as they require four to six weeks before benefits will be realized. And, it’s necessary to weigh the benefits against any unfavorable side effects, which can include confusion and constipation in memantine, and nausea, vomiting and a reduced heart rate with a cholinesterase inhibitor.

Visit Hillendale Home Care’s website for more information on specialized dementia care, and to learn more about joining Hillendale Home Care’s team of dementia care professionals through our CNA and HHA school or call 925-933-8181.