Today, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. Researchers are still trying to fully understand how the disease leads to memory loss and other problems with thinking and behavior. They hope to one day reverse those changes to prevent or stop the disease.
But if you or a loved one has Alzheimer’s, there are treatments that can make a difference. Some therapies ease the symptoms and help people do better for longer. Because the disease’s effects change over time, people often need to have their treatments adjusted by the doctor, or they need to start new ones as different problems emerge.
The symptoms of Alzheimer's disease often come on slowly. It might start when someone has trouble recalling things that just happened or putting thoughts into words. But over time, the problems get worse. People in the later stages of the disease usually can’t live alone or care for themselves.
There are three main phases of Alzheimer's: mild, moderate, and severe. Each stage has its own set of symptoms.
Different types of drugs can treat memory loss, behavior changes, sleep problems, and other Alzheimer’s symptoms. They don’t stop the disease, but they can keep the problems from getting a lot worse for a few months or even years. All of them can have side effects, which can be more of a problem for older people.
Doctors may recommend one or more types of medicines depending on a person’s symptoms:
Doctors might prescribe medications to ease confusion, aggression, agitation or hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there). Options include aripiprazole (Abilify), haloperidol (Haldol), and olanzapine (Zyprexa). It's important to note that studies have linked some of these “antipsychotic drugs” to a higher risk of death for people with dementia. The FDA has placed a "black box" warning on these drugs describing these problems. They can be helpful for many people, though.
Many people have explored other ways outside of medication to treat Alzheimer’s disease or handle its symptoms. The science on whether or not they work has been mixed.
Vitamin E. Scientists once thought this antioxidant might protect nerve cells from damage. But many doctors no longer recommend it for people with Alzheimer’s, because there’s little evidence that it works.