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Posted December 3, 2009

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Elderly Care: When Cutting Off Alzheimer's Meds May Make Sense

Q. What are the consequences of stopping Aricept or Namenda, or both, when the patient is pretty far along with Alzheimer’s disease?

Barbara T., Boynton Beach, Florida.

A. For most people with advanced dementia, you will find little change off the medications, although a few small studies suggest that Aricept may help improve some difficult behaviors in nursing home patients.

However, during the later stages of the disease, when it becomes difficult to get people to take their medications, it often makes sense to stop these medications. I do it often with my patients, and rarely have any difficulty with them once we stop. Keep in mind that the role of these medicines is to slow progression of disease, so it makes sense that when the disease has advanced into the later stages, the medications will be less beneficial overall.

This answer is provided by Dr. Vivian Argento, a trained geriatrician and member of the geriatric medical team at Bridgeport Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Dr. Argento is an expert in memory and medical problems affecting the elderly and serves as a clinical instructor at the Yale School of Medicine at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. She’s also a consultant both in and out of hospitals and cares for patients in various locations, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and in their homes via a house calls program. Dr. Argento can be reached at pvarge@bpthosp.org.

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