An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is fairly upsetting, even devastating maybe, not just for the patient but also for their loved ones. Much of the dread and sadness linked to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis comes from the knowledge that there is no cure and the awareness of the fact that Alzheimer’s typically only gets worse over time.
However, before you go on a downward spiral picturing memory loss and complete space and time disorientation, pause! There are actually medications that help control the symptoms of Alzheimer’s; that arrest (or at least slow) it’s worsening. You can get hold of these medications fairly easily so long as they are prescribed – and they shouldn’t be messed around with either, we’ll explain.
But let’s understand the fundamentals of Alzheimer’s first. Before you get a hold of medication, you need to be sure of the symptoms, take a test and thereafter, your medical professional will assess the stage of Alzheimer’s and the appropriate drugs to be administered.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is commonly misunderstood to be memory loss, or dementia in some cases. Alzheimer’s comprises these symptoms as it progresses but neither represent what Alzheimer’s really is. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease where the degeneration is progressive and affects brain cells and the connections between brain cells. This is what affects the cognitive abilities of the patient.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Difficulty remembering things, even things that just happened
- Inability to plan or solve problems
- Inability to recognise common/familiar things
- Loss of ability to do simple maths used in daily life
- Space and time disorientation (not sure of date, time, place)
- Repetitiveness and inability to participate in conversation
- Finding familiar tasks overwhelming
- Aggression, irritability, apathy, mood swings
- Lack of restraint
- Misplacing things, combined with paranoia
How To Confirm Alzheimer’s
As you can imagine, these symptoms are fairly common. It could just be the occasional forgetfulness and moodiness that comes with having sustained decades and decades of life. A medical diagnosis is required to be sure that the patient is indeed suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Until 2020 doctors relied on lab and imaging tests to rule out other causes for cognitive impairment and asked the patient questions as part of their diagnosis.
As of last year however, a test that looks for “biomarkers” that are telltale signs of Alzheimer’s has been launched. It is called PrecivityAD and it is fairly expensive.
Alzheimer’s Medication That Could Be Prescribed
Alzheimer’s medication, although it cannot cure the patient, can help them remain independent for a longer period.
The patient’s doctor might prescribe one of the 4 drugs mentioned below depending on the stage of Alzheimer’s that the patient is at. Do read to the end because there is a lot that one needs to understand about Alzheimer’s medication and treatment, not to mention precautions.
Description: Itprobably the most versatile in the sense that it can be prescribed for any and all the stages of Alzheimer’s.
Dosage: once a day
Mild to moderate stage
Description: It is used in early stages of Alzheimer’s for treatment of mild symptoms or at best moderate symptoms.
Administration: Pill for mild stage and extended release capsule for moderate cases
Dosage: Once a day for the former and twice a day for the latter
It can be used for mild to moderate symptoms control in some forms.
Dosage: Once a day
No, this isn’t an error. It can also be used in later stages and for more extreme cases
Administration: Skin patch
This one has serious side effects because it manages the activity of a messenger chemical that enables brain functions,called glutamate .
Administration: Syrup and/or pill
Background on Alzheimer’s Medication
Never self medicate
Alzheimer’s medication acts on the brain and as such should only be taken upon prescription by a doctor that is familiar with the case and only after a clinical diagnosis confirms Alzheimer’s. The medications are not meant for mild cognitive impairment or non Alzheimer’s cognitive failings. They must not be used randomly to fix forgetfulness or increase memory function.
Medicate according to specific stages
This does not mean that you decide for your parent or senior, what stage they are at and what medications need to be taken. Instead, have frequent and regular consultations with one medical professional and mantain a record of how the patient’s cognitive abilities are progressing as a response to medication and degenerating as part of the disease.
Do not be alarmed if the doctor recommends medications meant for a later stage as the stages are not set in stone. Observe the patient’s response to the treatment and take notes thag can be helpful to the doctor.
Evaluate the risks and rewards
Before getting the patient on any drug, understand and evaluate the risks and rewards. Decide if the course of treatment is going to be followed before you get into it because you cannot just wake up one day, decide that the patient is suffering too much/ not improving sufficiently and stop the medication. That brings us to our next point.
Medical consultation is non negotiable
Here’s the thing: the effects of Alzheimer’s medication are rather modest and as such their efficacy is often questioned. However, remember that you’re talking about a progressive disease. How does one confirm that symptoms (today, not last year) would not be worse without the medication?
It is important to speak to the patient’s doctor before stopping medication and to stay in touch thereafter, especially if symptoms worsen.