MEDICAL & ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS FOR MANAGING MEMORY LOSS
A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or other memory disorder is one of the most difficult and painful challenges older adults and their caregivers may face. Although there is no cure for age-related memory loss, a variety of medications are available to manage symptoms and behavior changes, slow down the disease process, and improve an older person's quality of life.
CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ALZHEIMER'S MEDICATIONS
Most Alzheimer's medications are prescribed to manage mild to moderate memory loss and make it possible for families to continue to care for older relatives at home. The drugs listed below are frequently prescribed to increase the ability of a person with memory loss to think, learn, reason, remember, communicate, and manage everyday
- Aricept (Donepezil): Prescribed for all stages of the disease.
- Exelon (Rivastigmine): Prescribed for mild to moderate Alzheimer's.
- Galantamine (Razadyne): Prescribed for mild to moderate Alzheimer' s.
- Exelon (Rivastigrnine): Prescribed for mild to moderate Alzheimer' s.
- Memantine (Namenda): Prescribed for moderate to severe memory loss.
- Cognex (Tacrine): Prescribed for mild to moderate Alzheimer's.
- Rivastigmine (Exelon)
- Razadyne (Galantine): Prescribed for mild to moderate Alzheimer's.
Although these medicines can greatly improve your relative's physical and memory health they may also cause significant side effects such as:
- Loss of Appetite, Weight loss
- Nausea, Vomiting
- Frequent Bowel Movements and Urination
- Weight Loss
- Behavior Changes
- Skin and Liver Disorders
- Sleep Problems, and Fatigue
QUESTIONS FOR THE DOCTOR ABOUT MEDICATIONS
Before you and your older relative make the decision to begin a medication to improve memory, be sure that you both fully understand what it is its potential side effects, how they can be managed, and if a drug needs to be discontinued or replaced with another medication.
Questions for the doctor:
- What is the name of the medicine?
- What is it supposed to do?
- How long will it take to tell if the drug is working?
- Are there any adverse reactions to look for? When it is necessary to call the doctor if they occur?
- How should the medicine be stored?
- How many times a day should it be taken?
- Should the medicine be taken with or without food?
- Are there side effects? What should we do if they occur?
- Can pills be crushed and mixed with food?
- What should we do if my relative misses a dose?
- Are there any foods that should be avoided?
Many chain pharmacies have a drug information page on their website that explains how a medicine should be taken, possible side effects, and other resources you can use to learn more about your parent's medicines.
Pharmacists are also excellent sources of information about prescription and nonprescription drugs. They advise patients about the correct way to take medicines and suggest over-the-counter treatments for minor ailments.
Some caregivers may consider using ginkgo biloba, coenzyme Q, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, herbal preparations, melatonin or other alternative remedies to treat their parent's memory disorder. These products are often sold on the Internet or in health food stores. Although such "treatments" may be harmless they are not tested by the FDA so
no records of ingredients or reactions are available to potential users and many are expensive.
ADD SOME FUN TO YOUR PARENT'S LIFE
Keeping busy provides much-needed structure to the day and helps your parent feel like a productive member of the family. Enjoyable activities prevent boredom, help maintain basic living skills, and give both of you a break from the daily round of caregiving and household chores. Taking a walk around the block, listening to "oldies but goodies" records, or treating yourselves to ice cream and you'll both forget about memory loss!
A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.