Friday, September 25, 2009

Aricept: Friend or Foe

When Granny came here to live, we weren't sure just how long she had been living with Alzheimer's. My grandmother was always very good at masking things about herself. My extended family did not administer the type of care that welcomed pointed questions about granny's health.

So she comes up here and mom and I begin a whole series of appointments with various doctors. This takes months. Since I work nights, we would schedule them on my days off. Unfortunately, they would almost always fall on the day I got off at 2 or 3 am. Then we would have to be a the doctor's by 8 or 9 am. So I slept in exam rooms, waiting rooms, etc. At that time granny was still mobile and could tell me things about how she was feeling. So I would put my head in her lap and nap til we were called back.

One of the doctors we went to see, recommended that we start granny on Aricept. Now granny was diagnosed with moderate to severe Alzheimer's when she got here. The problem with Aricept is that it works best when it works, with people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's. You can go to many different sites on this drug and get many different opinions about which stages it actually helps. The problem with this drug are the side affects.

Since my mother is the primary Power of Attorney person, what she says goes. We discussed this at length. I felt that we should give it a try. Then I read some of the side effects. I also read that we have about a 50-50 chance of it even doing anything. My mom and I discussed this at great length. She decided that the side effects were to great to give granny a drug that may or may not make a difference in her quality of life.

Since this drug does not cure Alzheimer's, it only slows down the progression of the disease, I related this decision to her doctor. Do I fell I should have argued with my mother? No. Do I feel it would have made a difference in my grandmother's quality of life? No. The drug only postpones the symptoms for about 6-12 months. I couldn't see putting my grandmother through some of these effects for 1 year.

A lot of people would argue me down on this. But, if granny had mild Alzheimer's when she arrived, then I would have argued that point with my mom. But, granny has lived a long life. Her later years are filled with laughter and joy. She is surrounded by those that truly love her and care for her. Has she been the best mom or grandmother? No. But, have you? Have I? She is the best grandmother to me and the best mom to my mother. That is what matters.

While the choice mom and I made may not be the right choice for you, I would recommend that you do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Do not be swayed by others that are not involved in the care of your loved one. If they are not part of the care now, they won't be when it gets tough. You have to consider all the possibilities with any change to your loved one's medications. Be an informed caregiver. This is the best thing for you and your loved one.


  1. JennyMac said...
    touching post...and I applaud you for thinking about your Grandmother's best interest. It is evident how much you love her.
    a corgi said...
    I agree what what you wrote here, Inge, and I totally respect your decision to not "fight" your mom so to speak and that you honored her decision since she had Power of Attorney. So many families are shattered and broken over health issues with elderly parents; one wants this, one wants that, etc. It was good to step back and honor your mom's decision about this


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