Of Medicine and Environment: Handling an Alzheimer’s Patient

Alzheimer’s disease is the main cause of dementia in the world today. It is as a result of mental deterioration due to aging and it also brings about difficulty in thinking. The disease gets it name from the doctor who first described it.

Alzheimer’s disease, named after the doctor who first described it (Alois Alzheimer), is a physical disease that affects the brain. There are more than 520,000 people in the UK with Alzheimer’s disease. During the course of the disease, proteins build up in the brain to form structures called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’. This leads to the loss of connections between nerve cells, and eventually to the death of nerve cells and loss of brain tissue. People with Alzheimer’s also have a shortage of some important chemicals in their brain. These chemical messengers help to transmit signals around the brain. When there is a shortage of them, the signals are not transmitted as effectively. As discussed below, current treatments for Alzheimer’s disease can help boost the levels of chemical messengers in the brain, which can help with some of the symptoms.

Sourced from: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=100

When it comes to treatment using medical drugs, Alzheimer’s disease symptoms are mainly suppressed so that they do not take a great toll on the patient’s memory and other cognitive functions.

Current Alzheimer’s medications can help for a time with memory symptoms and other cognitive changes. Two types of drugs are currently used to treat cognitive symptoms:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors. These drugs work by boosting levels of a cell-to-cell communication by providing a neurotransmitter (acetylcholine) that is depleted in the brain by Alzheimer’s disease. The improvement is modest. Cholinesterase inhibitors can improve neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as agitation or depression, as well.

Commonly prescribed cholinesterase inhibitors include donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Razadyne) and rivastigmine (Exelon). The main side effects of these drugs include diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite and sleep disturbances. In people with cardiac conduction disorders, serious side effects may include a slow heart rate and heart block.

  • Memantine (Namenda). This drug works in another brain cell communication network and slows the progression of symptoms with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. It’s sometimes used in combination with a cholinesterase inhibitor. Side effects may include constipation, dizziness and headache.

Sourced from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/diagnosis-treatment/treatment/txc-20167132

It is suggested that the use of antidepressants could lower the effects of the disease on the brain. Research is still under progress as scientists try to see how antidepressants can be introduced with side effects minimized.

Preliminary research suggests that the commonly used antidepressant Celexa, and perhaps other drugs in its class, may temporarily lower levels of a protein that clogs the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s too early to know if the medication — or the drugs that are similar to it — could play a role in the prevention of the devastating brain-robbing disease. The authors of the new study only looked at the effects of a large dose of the drug for less than two days, and only healthy younger people took part in the research.

There’s another important caveat: Previous efforts to reduce the levels of the protein, known as beta amyloid, haven’t helped patients fend off Alzheimer’s. And Celexa can cause some potentially serious side effects.

Sourced from: http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20140514/could-certain-antidepressants-slow-alzheimers

The environment and living situation plays a vital role in the treatment of an Alzheimer’s patient. There is need to ensure that they are in an environment that adapts to their condition. It should be an environment that makes it easy to create and continue routine habits that make the life of the patient easier.

Home safety is always important, but it’s a special concern when you’re caring for a person with Alzheimer’s. You need to do what you can to make sure your loved one’s surroundings are as safe and comfortable as possible. A few basic changes can help.

Entrances and Exits

  • Make sure that doorways are well-lit and free of clutter. Sensors that turn on outside lights when someone approaches the house can be a good idea.
  • Check that door locks work well and can open easily in an emergency.
  • Make sure stairs or ramps are in good repair and have a secure hand rail.
  • Think about posting a “No Solicitors” sign for the front door.

 Kitchen

  • Put child-proof latches on cabinets and drawers that have fragile, valuable, or dangerous items.
  • Lock up household cleaning products, matches, knives, scissors, and other hazards.
  • Keep your loved one from using dangerous appliances. Install safety knobs on the stove. Disconnect your garbage disposal. Get rid of anything that doesn’t work properly.
  • Remove fake fruits or decorations that look like food so your loved one doesn’t mistake them for something edible.
  • If you keep medications in the kitchen, store them in a locked cabinet or drawer.

Sourced from: http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/guide/caregiving-preparing-home