Get to Know the Main Alzheimer’s Meds & How They Help Manage the Disease

Senior woman checking label on medication

Learn about the two main Alzheimer’s drugs and how they work to fight the disease.

The latest Alzheimer’s data is worrying. The disease is now the sixth leading cause of death, rising above both breast cancer and prostate cancer put together. And even though deaths from several chronic health conditions, such as cardiovascular illnesses, are decreasing, those from Alzheimer’s have escalated in excess of 100%. The toll the illness takes on family caregivers is equally staggering, with over 16 million Americans supplying over 18 billion hours of caregiving for a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Although we’ve yet to discover relief from Alzheimer’s disease, there are two distinct kinds of treatment options that can help alleviate a number of the more prevalent symptoms. If your parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, there are two options your doctor may recommend:

1. Cholinesterase inhibitors: By hindering the breakdown of acetylcholine, a compound essential for memory, attention, learning and muscle activity, these prescription medications can offer some advantage within the mild to moderate phases of Alzheimer’s for a lot of patients. Dr. Zaldy Tan, medical director for the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, cautions, however, to bear in mind that benefits will 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 explains. Included in this class of medications are galantamine (Razadyne), donepezil (Aricept) and rivastigmine (Exelon).

2. Memantine: For the moderate to severe phases associated with the disease, the physician may recommend memantine (Namenda) that takes an alternate approach in comparison to cholinesterase inhibitors, preventing the overstimulation of glutamate NMDA receptors which in turn often helps regain limited memory function. Physicians often add memantine to a patient’s care plan coupled with a cholinesterase inhibitor when the disease progresses.

Determining the effectiveness of these treatments necessitates persistence, as each take 4 – 6 weeks before results may be realized. And, it’s essential to weigh the benefits compared to any adverse side effects, which could involve confusion and constipation for memantine, and nausea, vomiting and a reduced heart rate with cholinesterase inhibitors.

One of the best ways to help people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease live life to the fullest is by engaging the services of a trusted provider of home care in Mission Viejo who understands and will help take care of the varied challenges of dementia. Get in touch with CareWorks Health Services for more information on our highly trained, compassionate Alzheimer’s care services for older adults. For a list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.