AD is a slow disease, starting with mild memory problems and ending with severe mental damage. The course the disease takes and how fast changes occur vary from person to person. Some people only have the disease for 5 years, while others may have it for as many as 20 years.
No treatment can stop AD. However, for some people in the early and middle stages of the disease, the drug tacrine (also known as THA or Cognex) may alleviate some cognitive symptoms. Also, some medicines may help control behavioral symptoms of AD such as sleeplessness, agitation, wandering, anxiety, and depression. Treating these symptoms often makes patients more comfortable and makes their care easier for caregivers.
Scientists are testing new drugs for AD at many large teaching hospitals and universities. Some of these drugs have shown promise in easing symptoms in some patients.
People with AD should go to their doctor regularly. The doctor will check to see how the disease is progressing and treat any other illnesses that occur. The doctor and other health professionals also can offer help and support to patients and their families.
Most often, spouses or other family members provide the day-to-day care for people with AD. As the disease gets worse, people often need more and more care. This can be hard for caregivers and can affect their physical and mental health, family life, jobs, and finances.
The Alzheimer’s Association has chapters nationwide that provide educational programs and support groups for caregivers and family members of people with AD.
U.S Department of Health and Human Services
Public Health Service
National Institutes of Health
National Institute on Aging
Published in August 1995