If you know an Alzheimer’s patient either as a loved one or as a caregiver to one, you’ll need to understand the possible side effects of their medicine, and what the medication can do for them. Learning how to help your Alzheimer’s loved one cope, is by making sure they take it in the right dosages and at the correct time. Talk with their doctor about any complications, or even any new medicines on the market, you’re their voice of compassion and care.
As with any drug on the U. S. market, the FDA (U. S. Food and Drug Administration) must approve its use, and allow the pharmaceutical companies to distribute it. Currently, there are 4 drugs that can treat Alzheimer’s disease. Research continues into other medications, and even an immunization to stop Alzheimer’s from ever developing in people, but right now it’s still in the research category.
All drugs have some known side effects, and when your loved one is taking any of these drugs, you’ll need to look for side effects. You’ve got to remember that none of these drugs will cure Alzheimer’s disease; it only delays the progression of it, for a while. At times, you might find, as I found with my father, that dosages will have to be increased, and then, like my father, the medicine didn’t work after a while. Be especially careful about adding any other medicines, such as over the counter or even prescriptions from other doctors. Inform any other doctor about the kinds of Alzheimer’s medications your loved one is taking, and the correct dosage amounts. Certain medications will intensify the Alzheimer’s medications, or even make the symptoms worse.
Reminyl – This medication makes the brain produce more acetylcholine in the brain. The chemical acetylcholine is thought to be a key component in helping the brain sort information, and store the memories. It can be taken up to 24mg per day, but there is a tendency to cause weight loss, and nausea. Because Reminyl builds up in the body when an antidepressant medication is used with it, you’ll need to watch for side effects. My father couldn’t tolerate this drug at all, and was switched to another medication at a lower dose.
Exelon – This drug stops the breakdown of another brain chemical that is also associated with memory, butryrylcholine. Dosages for this medicine is low, only 6 mg per day. Some of the side effects can include nausea and muscle fatigue. Luckily, anyone on this drug is limited only to using precautions when taking any (NSAIDs) non steroid type (aspirin and ibuprofen)) medications for arthritis, or for other reasons.
Aricept – Aricept worked very well for my father, and was able to take the maximum allowable dose of 10 mg per day. Just like the other medications, this drug prevents the breakdown on acetylcholine in the brain. Fortunately for my father, his depression didn’t get worse until later, and then the Aricept was cut down some, to help him deal more with the depression. Also, my father never experienced any nausea, diarrhea or vomiting while using this medication.
Cognex – Is a drug that’s still used, but not as widely as it once was, due to some potentially serious side effects. The possibility is that because it targets acetylcholine in the body it, the body reacts differently with this drug. It can damage the liver, but it can be taken at higher dosages than other medications, up to 160mg per day. Other types of risks are that it can cause stomach ulcers, and has the increased effect of making NSAIDs (aspirin and ibuprofen) more potent and can cause bleeding stomach ulcers.
Some doctors find that lower dosages of one medicine in conjunction with another type works to improve an Alzheimer’s patient cognitive ability. Never mix any medicines of this type, leave it to the health care team to manage your loved ones care. Talk with the doctor, and always keep them up to date and informed, so your loved one will be happier and healthier. Aricept gave my father another good year of life with his granddaughter and a lot of smiles from her.
One of the best sources on the net for medication information and treatment is http://www.alz.org . There are lots of links to follow, where you’ll find a wealth of more information on Alzheimer’s.