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Stopping Alzheimer Disease Medications

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Updated: December 11, 2006

When should long term Alzheimer medications be stopped?

One of the most frequently asked questions, and dilemmas, is when should a decision be made to stop medication for Alzheimer's disease? There are a number of issues that need to be considered before any medication is discontinued.

  • It is generally stated that medications such as Aricept have an effective time frame when they seem to demonstrate cognitive improvements. Drugs used to treat cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's disease can still show some positive effects even during the middle and later stages of the disease. Aricept has recently been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for use in the later stages of the disease.

  • Some medications, such as Memantine (namenda), are currently approved by the FDA to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer's disease so can be used for long-term therapy. If your loved one is being treated with one of the other types of Alzheimer's medication it is important that you seek the advice of your family doctor or specialist. It may be that they advise changing medications.

  • Alzheimer's medication can help reduce behavioral problems that may be exhibited by people with this type of dementia. Stopping the medication may therefore be inadvisable.

  • Alzheimer's medications do not work for everyone. Paying out for a medication that does not give any benefit helps no one.

  • Side effects of medications for Alzheimer's may mean they have to be stopped or the medication changed.
  • Making the decision to quit Alzheimer's medications
    Stopping a medication that has been prescribed for someone with Alzheimer's can be a difficult decision. Guilt, hopelessness and just making such a big decision about a loved ones future is a big responsibility. There are a number of things that you can do to make sure the decision to quit Alzheimer's medications is the best one.

    Get medical advice on discontinuation of Alzheimer medication
    Alzheimer's medications require a period of observation to assess whether or not the drug is having any positive effect. A beneficial response to a cholinesterase inhibitor either by stabilization, delayed deterioration of cognitive or behavioral problems needs to be assessed by your doctor, the caregiver, family and friends.

    Medical Assessments
    Medical assessments, such as a neuropsychological tests or a mental health status assessment, can provide evidence of any beneficial effect.

    Caregiver feedback
    It is essential that the primary caregiver or key worker in hospital or nursing home provides information about medication and its cognitive or behavioral effect on the person with Alzheimer's disease.

    Decision to stop Alzheimer's medications
    So the question still remains, when should medications such as Aricept, Exelon, Namenda, Razadyne, Cognex be stopped.

  • Alzheimer's medication should be stopped if the drug is having no theraputic effect or is causing unacceptable side effects.
  • Alzheimer's medications should be stopped if someone with Alzheimer's disease can no longer communicate, no longer recognizes family members especially his or her spouse, is unable to do anything for themselves, is totally reliant on others for all self care and is no longer able to walk, then there seems little value in continue taking Alzheimer medications.

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