How is Alzheimer’s treated so far?
Medicinal treatment of Alzheimer’s: Possibilities, Limits and Alternatives
Currently, drug therapy is the most common form of treatment for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Drug treatment for Alzheimer’s aims to relieve the symptoms of the disease and slow down its progression. The most commonly prescribed drugs include acetylcholinesterase inhibitors such as donepezil, rivastigmine and galantamine.
These drugs increase the concentration of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for communication between nerve cells in the brain, which is often present in low concentrations in Alzheimer’s patients. Another drug used for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease is memantine, an NMDA receptor antagonist that attenuates the harmful effects of glutamate, another neurotransmitter.
Possible Side Effects and Risks of Medications
Although these drugs can help improve the cognitive abilities and behaviour of Alzheimer’s patients, they also have various side effects. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, for example, can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite and weight loss. Memantine can cause dizziness, headaches, confusion and fatigue.
Antidepressants and neuroleptics can cause severe side effects and even worsen symptoms in Alzheimer’s patients. Therefore, it is important that doctors and patients are informed about possible risks and side effects and carefully consider drug treatment.
However, an important aspect to consider when treating Alzheimer’s with medication is also that many drugs prescribed to treat accompanying symptoms such as depression, sleep disorders or behavioural disorders are not approved for the treatment of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Methods of non-drug therapy: Occupational Therapy and Cognitive Training
In addition to drug treatment, there are also recognised non-pharmacological therapy approaches that can play an important role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Occupational therapy is one such therapy approach. It aims to help patients maintain or improve their independence and quality of life in everyday life. Occupational therapists work with patients and their families to develop and adapt individual strategies for managing daily activities, such as dressing, eating and personal hygiene. This may include the use of assistive devices and adaptations in the home environment to make the person’s life easier.
Cognitive training is another non-pharmacological treatment option that aims to enhance and maintain the cognitive abilities of people with Alzheimer’s disease. These trainings include a variety of activities that target memory, attention, problem-solving and language skills. Cognitive training can take the form of group activities or individual therapy and is often used in combination with occupational therapy or other supportive therapy approaches.
Other therapies such as music therapy, art therapy and animal-assisted therapy can also promote the emotional well-being of people with Alzheimer’s disease and help reduce stress and anxiety. These therapies can also help improve the social engagement and quality of life of people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families.
Conclusion and Outlook – Three-Pillar Treatment of Alzheimer’s Dementia and Other Forms of Dementia.
Drug Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is and remains an important part of therapy to alleviate symptoms and slow down the course of the disease. Occupational therapy and cognitive training also offer valuable supplements to the drug treatment of Alzheimer’s and can help to maintain or improve the quality of life and independence of those affected.
Even a combination of drug and non-pharmacological therapy can be a holistic approach to better meet the individual needs of Alzheimer’s patients and their families.
With the now possible use of further therapy methods from the field of Brain Stimulation, such as transcranial pulse stimulation (TPS), a third pillar in the overall treatment concept is now available, which can significantly expand and improve the approaches of the first two pillars – medication and non-pharmacological therapy.