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What is the best treatment for Alzheimer’s?

Latest studies showed that memantine plus donepezil have superior outcomes for cognitive symptoms. However, it can not cure Alzheimer’s. One of the best treatments for behavioral symptoms is Cognitive Therapy.

Table of Content
Treatment options
Active Alzheimer’s Management
Giving Meaning and Purpose
Visiting Support Groups
Educating family and friends
Making Future Plans
Conclusion
List of Resources
About the Author

Treatment options

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease, which can not be cured. However, there are drug interventions that help with behavioral symptoms. Besides, those drugs can be used to maintain cognitive functions like to think or remember.

The drugs aim to slow down the symptoms of the disease.

Alzheimer's approved drugs by the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
5 drugs
1. Donepezil
2. Galantamine
3. Memantine
4. Memantine in combination with Donepezil
5. Rivastigmine

The study Memantine, Donepezil, or Combination Therapy—What is the best therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease? A Network Meta-Analysis by Guo et al. (2020) concluded that memantine plus donepezil showed the best outcomes for cognition, daily activities, and neuropsychiatric symptoms.

You can arrange an appointment with a general practitioner or neurologist to receive adequate consultancy for your loved one with Alzheimer’s.

This way you ensure that the affected individual gets the individual care needed. Next to pharmacological treatments, various non-pharmacological treatment therapies exist.

Remember this

One can arrange non-pharmacologic therapy appointments for Alzheimer’s patients, who would like to maintain their cognitive function.

Additionally, the quality of life can be improved, too.

In case of behavioral symptoms, they can help to reduce the symptoms as well.

Typical symptoms, which want to be managed, are agitation, aggression, apathy, depression, and sleep disturbances.

Keep in mind that such therapies do not stop the neuronal damage, which ultimately leads to Alzheimer’s symptoms.

There are a large number of other non-drug interventions to help someone with Alzheimer’s.

It is very important to figure out what works best in the different stages.

Just to outline a view therapy approaches:

1. Cognitive Therapy Approaches - This type of therapy utilizes exercises like arithmetic problem solving, word puzzles, or remembering numbers. Usually, one books an appointment for someone with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. A session can be held in a group, too. It is advised to attend such group meetings at least two times per week.

2. Physical, emotional, and social stimulation - Group interventions include preparing food, discussing various topics, and even listening to music. It is recommended to visit the group sessions two to three times a week.

3. Other Therapies and Interventions - Other forms of therapies include validation therapy, reminiscence therapy, occupational therapy, and psychological treatments.

I wrote an article, which explains how to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s by using the validation and reminiscence approach. Multiple examples walk you step by step through the communication techniques.

As you realize by now, there are various appointments to organize for the beloved individual.

Active Alzheimer’s Management

Caregivers and family members can actively manage someone’s Alzheimer’s disease. Choosing treatment options as well as planning for the future is mandatory to manage the disease. Active management profits affected individuals to the same extent as caregivers.

I would like to point out a list of possible things that can be managed:

What can be managed with Active Alzheimer’s Management?
8 Examples
- One can check for available treatment options and choose the most relevant ones. Options include pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments.
- One can visit support groups related to dementia with the patient.
- One can educate family and friends about the disease.
- One can participate in caregiver training. (Alone or with family members)
- One can help to make plans for the future.
- One can find ways to give meaning to the patient’s life.
- One can organize routine appointments.
- One can make the living place wheelchair-friendly.

Of course, there are many more tasks, which can be listed out, too.

But, those were the most important points for me.

The next sections will explain some of the upper mentioned points.

Giving Meaning and Purpose

In my opinion, giving meaning and purpose to the beloved one is the most important task. Providing Alzheimer’s patients with meaning makes them feel less like a burden to society.

Even Alzheimer’s patients can develop depression when feeling without purpose or guilty.

Thus, finding ways to make the individual feel valued makes a huge impact on their well-being.

There are several ways to make an affected person feel valued.

One can be achieved by simple communication techniques.

As I described in my article “How to talk to someone with Alzheimer’s”, there are two approached.

One of the two is the reminiscence approach.

Using this communication technique, the individual gets encouraged to talk about their past.

In short:

Use an open question like “how was it back then in your school time?”.

Just one of many open questions, which help the person to talk freely about their past.

Talking about the past and sharing mistakes and successes with the next generation makes everyone feel valued.

Visiting Support Groups

To visit dementia support groups allows connecting to Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Such meetings provide valuable insights to all participants.

For example, what new problems arise once the disease progresses.

Dementia support groups can be used to prepare for problems ahead of time.

And your questions can be answered on the spot, too. I would like to point out that individuals also share treatment plans.

Group meetings are usually held once or twice a month.

All you need to do is to call your insurance provider for nearby meetings.

Ultimately, it is important to realize that your beloved person is not the only one dealing with Alzheimer-related problems.

Educating family and friends

Family members and friends should have a basic understanding of possible mood, personality, and behavioral changes. For example, sudden aggression is due to the disease.

Family members should be educated once a beloved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

They should attend caregiver training, especially, if a third-party health provider is not an option.

Training can educate about communication techniques. This is required to take proper care.

I warmly recommend reading the Alzheimer’s Dementia Guide by the Alzheimer’s Association.

You can find it in different languages and for free on their website.

Remember this

Alzheimer’s guides inform about findings of recent studies and breakthroughs.

Besides, they do depict various treatment options, too.

It is a great place to start your research.

You can request material from your insurance provider as well.

Making Future Plans

I can not stress enough on the financial side of this point. Costs increase drastically, once the Alzheimer’s patient requires 24/7 Professional Care.

It might seem far away, however, it can come faster than you think.

And then it is good to have plans in place.

Remember this

For example, the monthly bill of a decent German nursing home easily reaches the 5.000 EUR per month landmark. In the U.S. calculate with $7,200.

This implies that it is not even the top-notch nursing home!

Finances are not the only point of concern.

Waiting lists are unpredictable. Meaning in an urgent case it might be a problem.

Of course, there are other options, too.

For instance, you could always get a nurse or caretaker, which stays at home with the patient.

This can be cheaper, depending on whether or not your family member has to pay rent or owns the property.

This is a very important aspect because the caretaker requires a separate room to stay.

Otherwise, the salaries increase by 400-600 EUR per month.

Make sure that you have this aspect figured out before searching.

The salaries for a nurse tend to be 3.500 EUR per month in Germany.

And this is already a bargain.

Meanwhile, the costs for a professional caretaker can be 500 EUR less.

Seek early advice from your insurance provider to find the best solution.

Conclusion

As you realize by now, there are multiple ways to help someone with Alzheimer’s. From making appointments to planning the future, many tasks can be solved.

For me, the point about giving meaning and value to one’s life is the most important one. Just think about it.

Everybody craves some sort of meaning in life.

And by just asking a few questions, the daily routine of a patient with Alzheimer’s can become better.

It is simply about bringing back joy and happiness into their lives.

Asking the question “What would make you happy?” does a fabulous job.

You might be surprised.

Just this weekend I visited my grandpa and got him his beloved “Curry Wurst”. He started eating and became very delighted.

He even told me how happy it made him eat a “Curry Wurst”. Better than the day-to-day food he usually is being served.

As you see, helping your beloved person is great!

I hope you found my article helpful.

Feel free to send this article to friends and family.

List of Resources

Patric Pförtner

B. Sc. Psychology

Hi, my name is Patric Pfoertner and I graduated 2020 from the NBU. Currently, I work and study in Germany. My specialisations are Cognitive Psychology paired with a good slack of Clinical Psychology. Just this year I started publishing my research in the CBB Journal. Feel free to read about it at ResearchGate. Otherwise, click the other button to read my full CV.

About Author ResearchGate

P.S.: I am available for psychological consultation, too.