The American Academy of Neurology 60th Annual Meeting brought news of a new Alzheimer's drug called Dimebon. The drug just made it through a pivotal phase of testing. Although it faces more trials before it will be marketable, the information implies that Dimebon could prove to be an important part of future Alzheimer's treatment.
According to the press release:
"After one year of therapy with Dimebon, Alzheimer's disease patients performed better in daily function than patients who did not get Dimebon, allowing them to maintain their functionality and decreasing the time needed by caregivers to assist with daily activities...,"
One of the things I found interesting in this press release was the emphasis on the Alzheimer's patient needing less help, and therefore, less time from the caregiver. First and foremost, when it comes to these drugs, is how much does it help the person with Alzheimer's disease? However, Alzheimer's, like many diseases, is a family disease.
It's not like a person in the family gets Alzheimer's and he or she is the only family member for whom life has dramatically changed. Everyone, from work colleagues, to friends to spouses, children and grandchildren will be affected by the diagnosis of the patient. Those who live with the person who is diagnosed will, obviously, be affected the most.
While the Alzheimer's patient will get to a point that, if they are still employed, they will no longer be able to work, the spouse or other family members will be examining the impact of losing a breadwinner. However, as they become caregivers, they will, themselves, have less time to devote to work, or they will have to hire someone to help out at home while they do work.
If Dimebon does prove to give the Alzheimer's patient more time where he or she can do self-care, the family will be better off, financially. Even if Alzheimer's strikes at an age when the person diagnosed isn't in the workforce, caring for someone with dementia can be exhausting. Caregivers absolutely need a break from their caregiving routine in order to be the best caregiver possible. In order to do so, people often need to use adult day care or hire in-home care.
We hope and pray that therapies to stop the disease altogether, or even better, prevent it, are on the horizon. However, until that time, the more choices people have, the better. If this new drug will increase the independence of an Alzheimer's patient for a significant period of time, families and patients alike will rejoice. Most times, what is good for the patient is good for the caregiver. This new drug, if it makes it to the frontlines, could be one of those good things.
Published On: April 19, 2008