There is no known cure for Alzheimer's, but there are treatments that can prevent some symptoms from getting worse for a limited time. Ongoing research offers clues to the way Alzheimer's develops and the reasons it starts. It also offers hope that some day it may be possible to delay the onset of Alzheimer's, slow its progress, or even prevent it altogether.
Alzheimer's disease develops slowly, starting with mild memory problems and ending in death. The course the disease takes and how fast changes occur vary from person to person. The time from diagnosis to end of life varies. It can be as little as 3 years if the person is over 80 when diagnosed. Or it may be as long as 10 years or more if the person is younger.
A person with Alzheimer's should be under a doctor's care and may see a neurologist, psychiatrist, family doctor, internist, or geriatrician -- a specialist who treats older adults. The doctor can treat the person's physical and behavioral problems and answer the many questions that the person or the family may have.
No treatment can stop Alzheimer's disease. However, for some people in the early and middle stages of the disease, the drugs Aricept®, Exelon® or Razadyne® -- previously known as Reminyl® -- may help prevent some symptoms from becoming worse for a limited time. Aricept® is also approved for severe symptoms of Alzheimer's. Another drug, Namenda®, is approved for use in moderate to severe forms of the disease, although it is also limited in its effects.
Also, some medicines may help control behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer's disease such as sleeplessness, agitation, wandering, anxiety, and depression. Treating these symptoms often makes patients more comfortable and makes their care easier for caregivers.
Family members and friends can assist people in the early stages of Alzheimer's in continuing their daily routines, physical activities, and social contacts. People with Alzheimer's should be kept up-to-date about the details of their lives, such as the time of day, where they live, and what is happening at home or in the world.
Memory aids may help in the day-to-day living of patients in the earlier stages of Alzheimer's. Some families find that a big calendar, a list of daily plans, notes about simple safety measures, and written directions describing how to use common household items are very useful aids.