I understand there are medications that can help with Alzheimer’s. Are there medications that actually help slow memory loss? Are they appropriate for everyone with Alzheimer’s?
There are no medications available today which slow memory loss over an extended period of time. The medications approved for Alzheimer’s have been shown in controlled studies to slow memory loss over a few months, but after 6-12 months, memory decline in those who take the medications is similar to those who do not take the medications. New drugs are being studied, and hopefully one or more will demonstrate a clear ability to reduce or stop the decline in memory impairment (we should not expect any of the drugs to restore memory loss). More
My father-in-law is experiencing some memory problems. At what point should he seek help?
It is always a good plan to have your father-in-law examined by an experienced geriatrician or geriatric psychiatrist when signs of memory loss emerge. The reason is that memory loss may not be due to Alzheimer’s or another irreversible dementia. Medications, an acute illness, or even a brain tumor may be causing the problem. Nevertheless, over the long run for the vast majority of persons with memory loss, it is important to monitor function carefully. Occasional forgetfulness, such as forgetting names, is not a major problem. Yet when the older adult begins to leave the stove on, repeatedly loses his car keys and cannot locate them, cannot keep up with usual personal business (such as banking) or cannot find his way home driving from a familiar place, then help (often from a social worker) is most important to maintain independent living as long as possible. Alzheimer’s support groups are found in most communities and they can be of great assistance to people with Alzheimer’s and their families. You can start with your state or local office on aging or a local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. More
My mom has memory problems that are really impacting her life, but she’s refusing to seek evaluation or help. What can we do?
In such situations, I will revert to the “family conference.” In such a setting, all significant members of the family (spouse if living, children, siblings) meet alone first and agree on the significance of the problem and what needs to be done with the assistance of a social worker who is skilled in the day-to-day management of memory problems. A plan is devised. Then the family meets with the older adult and as a group virtually insists that the older adult seek help, if not for her sake, then for the sake of the family. Have an appointment already set up. Have at least two family members go with the older adult to the evaluation and make certain that the family (in the presence of the older adult) express to the clinician the problems that have been noticed. This approach works most of the time IF the family is in agreement and speaks as one voice. More
About the Expert:
Dan G. Blazer, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Professor in Community and Family Medicine
Duke University School of Medicine