Although there is still no known cure for Alzheimer’s, current scientific studies have been helpful in bringing us closer every day to Alzheimer’s treatment. There has been an excellent progress in solving the mysteries behind Alzheimer’s, such as the factors causing it and what actually happens in our brain as it progresses. The critical information we now have on these processes have been helpful in making doctors come up with ways to prevent, delay, end or even overturn the nerve cell damage leading to Alzheimer’s symptoms. In addition, scientists and drug companies are doing their best to develop Alzheimer’s treatment aimed at these core disease processes.
Through scientific studies, we also have important information on how drug and non-drug approaches to Alzheimer’s treatment can improve a patient’s daily functioning and enhance his quality of life. There are pharmacological treatments available to help deal with the Alzheimer’s cognitive symptoms, including changes in thinking, perception, and memory. Although these drugs can’t totally stop the disease, in some people they can help in delaying these symptoms from further progressing.
While most doctors would agree on the importance of drug therapy, especially during the early stages of the disease, non-pharmacological therapies have also been proven equally valuable aspects of Alzheimer’s treatment and care. These include different types of strategies to help manage problematic behaviors such as therapeutic activities, modifying one’s home or environment, and applying the proper communication techniques. In the same way, support and education are given for caregivers and family members, and these are also considered important part of Alzheimer’s treatment and care.
The main goal of Alzheimer’s treatment is to maximize the quality of life of the sufferer as well as that of his caregiver(s). Alzheimer’s treatment usually includes three interrelated approaches, and they are:
1. Slowing or delaying the symptoms. In most cases, Alzheimer’s treatment involves ways of slowing or delaying intellectual or cognitive decline and treating certain symptoms and may also co-occur with some drug therapies.
2. Managing Alzheimer’s behavioral symptoms. This involves many different types of strategies. It is recommended that non-drug approaches be tried first. Families and caregivers use these approaches under the supervision or in consultation with nurses, social workers, or support-group organizers. Some of the strategies for managing these symptoms are:
Teaching family members and caregivers on the appropriate ways to interact and communicate with the person who can help him improve his day-to-day functioning and lessen his behavioral problems. Including the patient in therapeutic activities. Modifying the person’s home or environment in order to make it safer and much easier for the person to function. Maintaining the health of the patient by means of proper diet and exercise, regular medical care, and necessary health approaches.
When non-drug approaches fail in effectively managing behavioral problems, it is best to talk to your physician on the best medications to use. You might need to express in detail all the behavioral problems that you have with the person. In order to do this, you need to have a journal to help you keep track of his daily behavioral changes. Include your observations on what might be causing t symptoms, when these symptoms arise, and possible ways to stop them when they do occur.
Depending on the symptoms you describe, your physician might prescribe appropriate medications, from what is generally known as “anti-agitation drugs.” This group of drugs include antidepressants (for patient suffering from depression); sedatives, anti-psychotic medications, anti-anxiety drugs (also known as anxiolytics), and sleep medications. Under these types of medication, there are also various drugs, with each drug performing in a different way and with different side effects.
3. Support and education for caregivers and family members. Those who care for a person with Alzheimer’s know how challenging and demanding this job is. It poses great challenges, physically, emotionally, and financially. Caregivers are prone to experiencing chronic stress at a high level, and being burnout could be a primary reason for a caregiver’s inability to continually care for an Alzheimer’s victim at home.
Studies show that educating caregivers and family members about Alzheimer’s disease and providing appropriate support to them can tremendously improve the care of people with Alzheimer’s. Good thing there are many education and support programs for them. With a good program, a caregiver can be equipped with the skills and support he needs to care for his loved one right at his own home and significantly delay the time when it becomes necessary for him to be placed in a nursing home. These programs can help improve the quality of life both of the person suffering from Alzheimer’s as well as that of his caregivers and family members.