Learn More About the Two Primary Types of Alzheimer’s Medications

Senior woman checking label on medication

The medical world currently has two main types of medications to help patients with Alzheimer’s. Learn more about each here.

The latest Alzheimer’s data is worrying. The disease is currently the sixth leading cause of death, rising above both breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. And even though deaths from other chronic conditions, including cardiovascular illnesses, are decreasing, those from Alzheimer’s have escalated upwards of 100%. The toll the illness takes on family caregivers is equally shocking, with more than 16 million Americans delivering over 18 billion hours of care for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease.

Though we have yet to uncover relief from Alzheimer’s disease, there are a couple of distinct types of treatment options that may help decrease several of the more predominant symptoms. If your senior loved one was identified as having Alzheimer’s, here are a few Alzheimer’s medication options your doctor may suggest:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors: By hindering the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical crucial for memory, attention, learning and muscle activity, these prescription medications can provide some benefits within the mild to moderate phases of Alzheimer’s for many patients. Dr. Zaldy Tan, medical director for the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, warns, however, to keep in mind that benefits are likely to be limited 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).
  • Memantine: In the moderate to severe phases of the disease, a doctor may recommend memantine (Namenda) which takes a unique strategy in contrast to cholinesterase inhibitors, preventing the overstimulation of glutamate NMDA receptors which in turn might help improve limited memory function. Doctors will frequently add memantine to a patient’s care plan together with a cholinesterase inhibitor as the disease advances.

Determining the effectiveness of these treatments requires patience, as both take four to six weeks before benefits may be realized. And, it’s important to weigh the benefits versus any adverse side effects, which could include confusion and constipation in memantine, and nausea, vomiting and a low heart rate with cholinesterase inhibitors.

One of the most effective ways to help individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease live life to the fullest is through engaging the services of a specially trained caregiver who understands and can help manage the varied struggles of dementia. Call Generations at Home for more information about our highly trained, compassionate Alzheimer’s care services for older adults.