Alzheimer's Disease is a disease feared by many. With no known cure for Alzheimer's Disease (AD), treatment focuses on the symptoms, and in helping to maintain the highest level of functioning possible for as long as possible. Despite the fact that there is no cure for AD, there are some things you can discuss with your doctor about treating AD:
- Pharmacological Treatment a.k.a. "Drug Therapy" While there are no cures for AD, there are several drugs on the market that can be used to treat some of its symptoms. Drugs such as Aricept are often given to people to try and help improve their memory. This tends to help quite a few people, however, it will eventually stop working altogether. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are also often prescribed to treat the depression and anxiety that go along with AD.
- Maintaining Safety Probably the most important treatment of all for AD is maintaining the safety of the individual suffering from the disease. You have to realize that the person will eventually forget how to do everyday activities that we all take for granted, such as eating, bathing, or turning off the stove. Provide good lighting; use night-lights where necessary. Lock up any hazardous materials that your loved one may be able to reach, such as cleaners, medicines and even soaps (yes, there have been people with AD that have tried to drink liquid hand soaps). Pick up some childproof outlet covers and use them to protect from electric shock.
- Encouraging Independence On one hand, safety is a huge concern but on the other hand, encouraging independence is also a form of treatment. Let the individual try to do as much as possible by himself...it helps him to retain not only his dignity and independence, but also his memory. Remember to be patient as he attempts to button up his shirt, when he looks at a book and tries to remember what that word is, or when he is trying to recall a family member's name.
- Other Helpful Interventions Some of the simplest things, things we may take for granted, can be extremely helpful for the person with AD. One thing you can do is take photographs of common items, such as a toilet, a cup, a TV, a bed, or a telephone. Sometimes a person with AD will not be able to remember the name of an item, but will recognize the item, and be able to point to let you know what he needs.
Another helpful intervention is to keep a handy paper posted of daily activities, such as "Eat breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Take your Aricept medication at 8 a.m." And so on... These posted schedules can be changed according to the day's plans, however, making things as routine as possible is very helpful to the person with AD.
Yet another intervention for helping persons with AD is keeping them from a sedentary lifestyle, and making sure they get plenty of exercise and eat healthy meals. A diet filled with fruits and vegetables, and low in saturated fat, while not a cure, can help improve memory. Soft, relaxing music can also be played while the individual with AD is resting, to help promote relaxation and discourage restlessness.
- Treating the Family Watching your loved one go through the stages of AD is stressful and emotionally draining in itself. Sit down with your loved one's doctor, and ask about caregiving alternatives such as home care nurses, visiting nurses, or skilled nursing facilities. Discuss what support groups are available, whether in your community or online. Do not be afraid to ask for help...it may be one of the best things you can do for your loved one and for yourself.