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Is Aricept Helpful for End Stage Alzheimer's?

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 7/15/2010

Aricept is a medication that is prescribed for people with Alzheimer's disease. Designed to slow the progression of symptoms, Aricept is approved for use by people in early, middle, and end stage Alzheimer's. Learn more about the end stages of the disease and how Aricept can help to ease symptoms.

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    The question "Is Aricept helpful for end stage Alzheimer's?" is one that family members of patients with this condition are likely to ask of medical professionals. Aricept, one of several medications approved for treating Alzheimer's, can be taken by patients as a means of decelerating the disease's progression. Though Aricept is commonly prescribed during the early stages of Alzheimer's, the medication can help people in the end stages as well.

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    Aricept Overview

    The generic name for Aricept is donepezil hydrochloride. Available in either 5mg or 10mg tablets, Aricept works by delaying the effects of Alzheimer's disease, which is characterized by lowered acetylcholine levels in the brain and the death of nerve cells that impact memory, judgment, and thinking skills. The Aricept.com website notes that in a clinical study, Aricept was shown to significantly prolong an Alzheimer's patient's ability to perform daily tasks such as self-care, using the telephone, and doing chores. (1)

    Aricept can also help Alzheimer's patients to manage behaviors such as anxiety and frustration. Because Alzheimer's is a progressive disorder, Aricept does not prevent nerve degeneration altogether, but can increase the duration of the disease's mild to moderate stages in many patients. The medication may not begin to take effect for several weeks after the treatment is started.

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    Treating End Stage Alzheimer's With Aricept

    A person has reached end stage Alzheimer's when dementia has progressed to the point that speech, movement, and recognition of surroundings is severely impaired. End stage Alzheimer's patients require assistance to use the bathroom, walk, sit up, and eat. They are frequently unable to speak coherently and are unable to control their reflexes.

    Alzheimer's disease is eventually fatal to all who suffer with the condition, but Aricept may help some people with severe dementia to experience longer periods of stabilized symptoms. Though medications such as Exelon and Razadyne are also prescribed for Alzheimer's patients, Aricept is the only medication that is approved for use during the end stages of the disease. (2)

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    Benefits And Risks

    According to Drugs.com, people with end stage Alzheimer's are typically prescribed a once-daily 10 mg dose of Aricept. (3) Some of the main benefits of Aricept for severe Alzheimer's include:

    • improved or stabilized cognitive abilities (memory, recognizing loved ones)
    • improved or stabilized functional abilities (dressing, feeding, walking, speaking)
    • a slower overall progression of cognitive and functional degeneration.

    Aricept may cause undesired side effects in some patients, and therefore may not be an ideal treatment option for some people with Alzheimer's disease. Potential side effects include:

    • gastrointestinal problems (nausea, cramping, vomiting, diarrhea)
    • loss of appetite
    • disturbances in sleep patterns (insomnia)
    • muscle cramps
    • fatigue
    • bruising
    • fainting

    Aricept can also cause bleeding in people who are prone to stomach ulcers. The medication should only be used as prescribed and directed by a medical professional.

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    Is Aricept helpful for end stage Alzheimer's? Studies have shown that Aricept does indeed benefit some people who have reached the final stages of Alzheimer's disease by delaying the rate of nerve cell deterioration in the brain. Families of Alzheimer's patients should consult a physician for advice on the possibility of prescribing Aricept based on a patient's individual situation and needs.

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    References

    1) Aricept.com--http://www.aricept.com/about.html

    2) Alz.org--http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_standard_prescriptions.asp

    3) Drugs.com--http://www.drugs.com/pro/aricept.html