Understanding Alzheimer's Disease -- Diagnosis & Treatment
Other Therapies for Alzheimer's Disease
Although hormone replacement therapy was initially thought to be beneficial, more recent studies actually show an increased risk in developing Alzheimer's for those taking combination hormone replacement therapy (both estrogen and progesterone) and, to a lesser degree, estrogen replacement alone.
A number of drugs are prescribed for specific symptoms associated with Alzheimer's disease:
- Antipsychotic drugs, such as Haldol, Risperdal, and Zyprexa, may be used to treat paranoia, confusion, hallucinations, and aggressive behavior.
- Antidepressants, such as Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, and Zoloft, can be used to treat depression.
- Sleep medications, such as Ambien, may be used for insomnia, and anti-anxiety drugs, such as Ativan and Buspar, may be used to treat agitation.
- The herbal medication, gingko biloba, has been suggested to help memory. However, studies of the supplement show there is no convincing evidence of benefit for dementia.
Home Care for Alzheimer's Disease
To help an Alzheimer's patient cope with episodes of disorientation and mental lapses, promote a feeling of safety in every way possible: Maintain a stable, familiar living environment; stick to a routine; when you must be absent, leave reminder notes and simple directions.
Wandering and getting lost is a common problem with Alzheimer's patients. Have the patient wear an ID bracelet with a phone number on it.
To encourage someone with Alzheimer's to talk more, go for a walk. Studies suggest that walking may stimulate areas of the brain linked to speech.
To help an Alzheimer's patient develop a more positive outlook on the present, try to help them remember good times. Often, long-term memories are not initially impaired and pleasant recollections can create feelings of happiness and well-being. This can be effectively done in a group. Good nostalgia-promoting materials include old magazines, photo albums, and favorite family stories. Avoid pressuring the patient to remember. A subtle question or two may provide the key to a memory.
Caring for an Alzheimer's patient is often stressful for family members. Support organizations can help caregivers cope with problems and feelings. Eventually, full-time nursing care will be necessary. Some families are able to provide this level of care at home, while others turn to professional caregivers.
Another important area to improve functioning of an Alzheimer patient is to provide a healthy, well balanced diet.