Ask Dr. Fotuhi
"Ask Dr. Fotuhi" gives you a chance to ask questions about your brain health. You can submit a comment or question and Dr. Fotuhi will respond to it here. Check back soon to see the latest questions and answers!
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Q: My husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and has been taking medication to control his symptoms. When should he stop taking the meds? Is it better at some point to speed up the symptoms, rather than taper off once real difficulties set in?
A: Different medications for Alzheimer's can help with the different types of symptoms any individual patient may have in the different stages of the disease. Some patients suffer from confusion and irritability while others may have apathy and seclusion. Some patients may experience hallucinations and others may wander at night. Your doctor can decide to increase or decrease the dose of some of your husband's medications or may select a different medication, depending on the type and severity of his symptoms at any given time. In general, medications can be stopped toward the late stages of the disease when a patient is bed-bound and has difficulty with swallowing. You need to keep in mind that some of your husband's symptoms may be due side effects of his medications. In that case, stopping them will make him feel and function better. Taking care of patients with Alzheimer's disease requires a deep understanding of both brain chemistry and the dynamics of a patient's environment. If your doctor is not an expert in dealing with dementia, you can contact Alzheimer's association and ask for help to find an expert in your city. I also recommend that you read a book called: The 36-Hour Day.
Q: My dad was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Will this increase my chances of getting it?
A: If you have a family member diagnosed with Alzheimer's after the age of 65, you have a higher chance of developing the disease. The risk starts becoming significant only when you pass the age of 65, not sooner. At the age of 50, your risk of developing the disease if the same as anyone in families with no history of Alzheimer's disease. One study found that at the age of 85, those with a genetic link to Alzheimer's had a 2.5 times higher chance of getting the disease than individuals with no genetic link.
Source: R.C. Green et al., "Risk of Dementia among White and African American Relatives of Patients with Alzheimer's Disease," Journal of the American Medical Association 287 (3):329336 (2002).