Is it OK to stop Alzheimer's meds?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My Mother-In-Law is in the middle stages of Alzheimer's and is miserable. The amount of anti-depressants she is on is ridiculous and it's surprising she is not a walking zombie. They do have her taking Namenda and Aricept. Most of the reason she is miserable is because she is aware what is happening too her. I'm wondering if it is reasonable to ask the doctor to stop the Alzheimer medications? Why slow down the inevitable if she is already miserable now?

Expert Answer

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

Stopping Alzheimer medications is not as logical as it may sound. Often when the meds are withdrawn the disease process actually appears to speed up. Most clinicians and professional AD carepartners opt to keep the Alzheimer person on such medications as Aricept and Namenda until the last stage of the disease where the person requires total care. The positive effects may not be measurable but there seem to be definite negative manifestations when the meds are withdrawn. The AD person may become less active, more confused, less able to participate in activities of daily living and show increased verbal difficulties. It is a decision that you and your family must make with input from the medical community. And to complicate this decision, you may not see the positive effects of these medications until they are removed. When a question involves starting or stopping Alzheimer medications, I frequently suggest contacting your pharmacist - an overlooked goldmine of information on our carepartnering journey.