Medications for Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementias



Medicines for Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementias

Medications play a crucial role in the management of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, offering symptomatic relief, slowing disease progression, and improving overall quality of life for individuals affected by these conditions. This printable guide provides an in-depth exploration of medications commonly used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and dementias, offering valuable insights into their mechanisms of action, benefits, side effects, and considerations for optimal use.

Cholinesterase Inhibitors: Cholinesterase inhibitors are a class of medications that work by increasing the levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and cognition, in the brain. Drugs such as donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine are commonly prescribed cholinesterase inhibitors for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. These medications can help improve cognitive function, behavior, and activities of daily living in individuals with mild to moderate dementia.

NMDA Receptor Antagonists: NMDA receptor antagonists, such as memantine, work by regulating the activity of glutamate, another neurotransmitter involved in memory and learning. Memantine is approved for the treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease and is often used in combination with cholinesterase inhibitors to enhance therapeutic efficacy. Memantine can help slow the progression of symptoms, improve cognitive function, and reduce behavioral disturbances in individuals with advanced dementia.

Antipsychotic Medications: Antipsychotic medications may be prescribed to manage neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as agitation, aggression, hallucinations, and delusions, in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. However, these medications should be used with caution due to their potential for serious side effects, including sedation, cognitive impairment, and increased risk of stroke or mortality. Atypical antipsychotics, such as risperidone, quetiapine, and olanzapine, are often preferred over conventional antipsychotics due to their lower risk of adverse effects.

Antidepressant Medications: Antidepressant medications may be prescribed to manage mood disturbances, such as depression and anxiety, in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as sertraline and citalopram, are commonly used antidepressants in this population due to their favorable side effect profile and efficacy in managing mood symptoms.

Considerations for Medication Use: When prescribing medications for Alzheimer’s disease and dementias, healthcare providers must consider individual factors such as disease stage, comorbidities, medication tolerability, and patient preferences. Regular monitoring of medication efficacy and safety is essential to optimize treatment outcomes and minimize the risk of adverse effects. Additionally, non-pharmacological interventions, such as cognitive stimulation, physical exercise, and social engagement, should be integrated into the treatment plan to enhance overall well-being and quality of life.

Other helpful links: 

Check out BOT Portal: Resource Site for Occupational Therapy Students and Practitioners

OT Goals for Medication Management