Dad, I AM CareGiver

Dad & Dementia Meds

I don’t know how many years ago Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (I was living out of state and travelling out of the country). But I do remember there was a time that he was displaying very aggressive, angry behavior toward my Mom. I would be talking with her on the phone and I could hear my Dad in the background. It was actually scary at times and I encouraged my brothers to check in on her often. He was finally tested, diagnosed and prescribed some medication that helped a lot with the behavioral concerns.

So, he’s been taking Memantine and Donepezil for years. The doctor that is seeing him now is not the same doctor that provided the original prescriptions. Recently during a regular exam, he suggested taking Dad off the dementia medications. He stated that “research shows that the meds do not improve the condition at all” and that discontinuing them would help his kidneys and liver if they didn’t have to process the meds. The doctor suggested it also may make Dad less drowsy and be more awake and alert during the day.

Well, I know that the prescriptions aren’t curing the Alzheimer’s. Nothing pharmaceutical seems to cure many things! And I understand about the additional load any prescription puts on the kidneys and liver. But, I still wasn’t convinced it was a good idea.

I shared that I remember he had the aggressive behavior before taking the meds, and might that return if he was no longer taking them? The doctor felt it was unlikely after all this time, but if we were concerned, he was okay with continuing the dosages. I also asked how long would it take for the meds to be cleared from his body if we were to stop them? That way, if there were to be any issues, I’d know approximately when things might change. He said that was a great question, and believed it would take about two weeks.

After some more conversation with the doctor and discussions with Mom, we decided to eliminate the two dementia medications with the understanding and agreement that he could start them back up if there was a need.

I appreciate his doctor continuing to review Dad’s medications. When this doctor first started seeing Dad, he suggested stopping his blood pressure pills. Dad had taken blood pressure medication for as long as I’ve known him, and that’s a very long time! But the doctor assured us that he could go back on it if needed. I monitored Dad’s blood pressure every couple days while in between the doctor’s visits, and he seemed to be doing okay. His blood pressure has remained stable without the medication for two years now! So, I felt comfortable with trying this new suggestion about discontinuing the dementia meds.

Two weeks to…the…day, Dad’s behavior and ability to process instructions changed! When he was in the bathroom, he asked which way he was going to go to get back to his room. I said “left”. He insisted that was wrong and he needed to go right (which would put him into the shower). He spent 20 minutes being combative and arguing with me while sitting on The Throne. I pleaded with him to do it my way this time, and we could do it his way the next time. He did, but yelled at me and continued to argue all the way.

I was completely frustrated and emotionally exhausted after two days of this. Of course it happened on the weekend, so I had to wait to speak with his doctor about this turn of events. When we were able to have a conversation, he was surprised but immediately agreed to restart the two prescriptions. Thank goodness! Within 24 hours, Dad was back to “normal”.

I appreciate that we have a good relationship with this doctor, that he is open to and encourages my involvement in Dad’s health affairs. Not that I needed the doctor’s “approval”, but it does provide me with a comforting sense of satisfaction that I’m doing well as my Dad’s (and Mom’s) advocate. We haven’t always had such positive experiences with physicians (and some of their egos) over the years.

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