Finding the Right Care for Alzheimer’s Disease

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Talking With Your Doctor About Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease

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Coming up with the best treatment plan for Alzheimer’s disease can be tricky. That’s because it depends on many factors: age, general health, treatment goals, how severe the symptoms are, and the person’s living situation. But by taking the time to talk through all the treatment options and how they may affect you or your loved one, you may be more likely to find the one that works best.

Today’s Treatment Options for Alzheimer’s Disease

Four medicines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Donepezil (Aricept)
  • Galantamine (Razadyne)
  • Memantine (Nameda)
  • Rivastigmine (Exelon)

Each helps maintain thinking, memory, and speaking skills. They also can help with some of the behavioral and personality changes that can occur with Alzheimer’s. Doctors sometimes combine two of these medications (especially Donepezil and Memantine) in patients with moderate-to-severe Alzheimer's.

Asking Questions About Treatment

It’s important to ask questions about medications and other treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. There’s no perfect treatment and success with treatment can vary. So not only will asking questions provide you with knowledge about your or your loved one’s condition, it will also show your doctor what concerns you most.

Here are some questions that you can ask to start a meaningful conversation:

  • Can you explain the treatment options?
  • What are the benefits of each option?
  • How likely is it that each treatment will work?
  • How will we know if the treatment works?
  • For how long will the treatment work?
  • What are the side effects of each treatment option?
  • Can anything be done about the side effects?
  • Do any other options exist?

Ask the questions that you care most about first. If you don’t understand the answer, ask your doctor to explain it again or differently.

Also be sure to ask questions about how the various treatments should be taken. For instance, ask:

  • Are there foods or drinks that should be avoided?
  • Are there medicines or activities that should be avoided?
  • Should the medicines be taken with meals or on an empty stomach?
  • What should be done if a dose is missed?

Take notes, bring a family member or friend to take notes, or ask your doctor to write down the key information for you.

Tomorrow’s Alzheimer’s Disease Treatments

You may also be interested in learning about treatments in clinical trials. Today, experts are studying more than 90 drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. If you or your loved one would like to help advance Alzheimer’s disease research, ask your doctor about taking part in a clinical trial.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 30

  1. About Alzheimer’s Disease: Treatment. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/topics/treatment

  2. During Your Appointment. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/ask-your-doctor/questions-during-appointment.html

  3. NINDS Alzheimer's Disease Information Page. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/alzheimersdisease/alzheimersdisease.htm

  4. Participating in Alzheimer's Research: For Yourself and Future Generations. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/participating-alzheimers-research/introduction

  5. Questions for Your Doctor. Alzheimer’s Association. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_20637.asp

  6. Start the Conversation. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. http://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/options/start-conversation/

  7. Talking with Your Doctor: Asking Questions. NIHSeniorHealth. http://nihseniorhealth.gov/talkingwithyourdoctor/askingquestions/01.html

  8. Talking with Your Doctor: Treatments and Surgery. NIHSeniorHealth. http://nihseniorhealth.gov/talkingwithyourdoctor/treatmentsandsurgery/01.html

  9. Why Explore Your Options. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. http://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/options/why/

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