SEPTEMBER IS WORLD ALZHEIMER’S MONTH
SEPTEMBER 21 IS WORLD ALZHEIMER’S DAY
Unfortunately there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, despite the absence of a cure, certain therapies may mitigate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and lead to temporary improvements in memory and thinking. However, these therapies are most effective when started early in the course of the disease in the mild-to-moderate stages. Unfortunately, due to several cultural norms and taboo, most Africans are diagnosed late, if-at-all with Alzheimer’s disease. Thesemitigating medications belong to a class of drug called cholinesterase inhibitors (donesepil,rivastigmine,galantamine).A dementia specialist doctor usually recommends them once the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease has been established. In cases where cholinesterase inhibitors don’t work (usually in the moderate and above stages), another drug called memantine may help symptoms. Behavioral abnormalities are common in Alzheimer’s disease, and these can exert a severe emotional toll on caregivers. Behavioral abnormalities include agitation, delusions and paranoia, aggressiveness, hallucinations, and other maladaptive behaviors that may threaten the safety of the person with the disease or his or her caregiver. Sometimes these behaviors are worse or appear at night – a phenomenon is known as “Sundowning”.In these situations, consultation with a mental health expert is highly recommended. The mental health provider may decide to prescribe an antipsychotic medications such as quetiapine and risperidone to control the abnormal behavior.In some cases, depression and anxiety may be the dominant problem and may require cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medications. With all these medications, it is important to discuss the side effects with the physician prescriber before initiating them. Non-pharmacological treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is also advised andincludes the use of cognitive stimulation activities such as board games or computer based games, creative thinking activities, and practical new skills training. These should be made fun and culturally appropriate.