Treating Alzheimers Disease With Compassion

The first step in treating any disease is to be sure that you have the correct diagnosis. The reason for this is obvious – wrong diagnosis, the treatment will most likely be ineffective. The treatment can even be harmful if the diagnosis is incorrect. Any doctor should be diligent when making a diagnosis. It is also up to the patient or the patient’s family to seek a second opinion if the validity of the diagnosis is in question. Enough said, moving on to the treatment regarding Alzheimer’s. There are many causes of dementia besides Alzheimer’s so a careful look at all the symptoms and the history (are the symptoms progressive in nature?) in order to arrive at exactly what you are dealing with. Some causes for dementia can be reversed with treatment, not so with Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a progressive and incurable disease.

The best that treatment can do for the patient and the patient’s family and loved ones is to use medication and non-medicated methods to extend the cognitive and behavioral condition as much as possible to give all concerned as much time as possible with the patient. Educating and preparing the individual and his/her family for the eventual path of the disease is paramount to successfully treating the individual. The symptoms will intensify as time goes on and all parties must be aware of this and capable of managing the symptoms of the disease at each stage of the disease in order to make the progression of the disease as comfortable as possible for the patient.

There are numerous medications that can be part of the treatment plan including those to slow the progression of memory loss, to help control the behavioral symptoms, and to improve the sleep patterns. Some medications are part of clinical trials that the patient’s doctor can help the patient and family to be aware of that may be helpful to the individual’s symptom management.

Medications prescribed for the Alzheimer’s patient may include antioxidants such as vitamin E but to date the use of vitamin E is controversial and your doctor will fill you in on the details. Cholinesterase Inhibitors are the drugs of choice in treating Alzheimer’s disease because it has an impact on improving cognitive and neuropsychiatric symptoms of the disease. Other drugs used to treat the disease include memantine, which blocks the NMDA receptors that reduces the over stimulation to brain receptors and is used in those who have moderate to severe stage Alzheimer’s. Antipsychotics and neuroleptics are used to help control behavioral symptoms of the disease especially hallucinations and agitation. Antidepressants and anxiolytics are used to control agitation, and anxiety. Sleeping preparations may be used to help at bedtime to control agitation, confusion and restlessness. Those with Alzheimer’s experience these symptoms especially as night approaches. Those with Alzheimer’s are also known for waking during the night and wandering around so sleeping medications help to keep them safe as well as to induce restful sleep.

In everything that the doctor does towards designing the plan with the patient and then later in the disease, with the family; he/she should do so with compassion for the patient and for those who suffer along with the individual. All treatments must have the goal of maintaining as much dignity and respect as possible for the individual with the disease. Giving comfort and compassion are vital elements of any treatment plan.

One Response to “Treating Alzheimers Disease With Compassion”

  1. Bo says:

    Compassion. You have said it well, this is a key. There was another article I saw that looks at how the attitudes of caregivers are so important, and how to get those with dementia involved in the arts helps. Here is where I saw it, in case of interest to anyone else: http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2010/01/film-premiere-i-remember-better-when-i.html

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