Starting and stopping treatment

We suggest some helpful questions that you may wish to ask your doctor, plus we provide insight in to process of stopping medication.

Questions to ask the doctor when starting the drugs

If a person has been prescribed one of these drugs, it’s important they understand what it does and how to take it. They may want to ask the doctor about some of the following things. You may find it helpful to write down these questions and the answers the doctor gives:

  • Why have I been prescribed this drug specifically?
  • How can taking this drug help me?
  • How long will it be before I see a result?
  • If I get side effects, should I stop taking the drug immediately?
  • What will happen if I stop taking the drug suddenly?
  • Can I drink alcohol while taking the drug?
  • How might this drug affect other medical conditions?
  • What changes in health should I report immediately?
  • How often will I need to visit the clinic or surgery?
  • If this drug doesn’t suit me, can I try another drug?
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Stopping treatment

Medication should be reviewed regularly, and continued for as long as the benefits outweigh any side effects.

Making the decision to stop medication

Medication should be reviewed regularly, and continued for as long as the benefits are greater than any side effects. If the person with dementia decides to stop taking a drug, they should speak to the doctor first if possible, or as soon as they can after stopping treatment. The doctor may also advise stopping the treatment if the person becomes unable to take the medicines in the way prescribed, even with support from someone else.

Stopping and restarting

If someone stops taking their prescribed drug, their condition may get worse more quickly. If someone has stopped and thinks they should start their medication again, they should talk to their doctor as soon as possible.

Cholinesterase inhibitors

When a person’s dementia becomes severe (late stage), the doctor will need to decide with someone who knows the person well whether they should continue taking a cholinesterase inhibitor.

There is now good evidence that cholinesterase inhibitors continue to help even when someone’s Alzheimer’s is severe. Many doctors therefore continue to prescribe a cholinesterase inhibitor for late-stage Alzheimer’s until the person’s side effects become too severe or they become unable to take the medications in the way prescribed. In the last days of a person’s life, doctors will often review their medication. After discussion with someone who knows the person well, the doctor may then decide to stop anti-dementia drugs.

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