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A cure for Alzheimers?

March 30, 2013

While watching the news today, a particular news story piqued my speechie interest. I’ve written before about the work we do with clients who may have Alzheimers, including focusing on communication strategies, memory, and behavioural management. However, a barrier that can often times stand in the way of successful therapy with clients with Alzheimers, and impact their relationships with their loved ones, is the apathetic behaviour that can manifest as a part of the disease.

The particular news story was focused on a study that sought to treat apathy, using a drug commonly used to treat ADHD; Ritalin. The causes of apathy in individuals with Alzheimers is not fully understood, but a current theory lies with the neurotransmitter Dopamine.

A study funded by the National Institute of Aging investigated the effects of Ritalin on apathy in Alzheimers patients. A control group taking a placebo for 6 weeks was compared to a control group taking Ritalin. The study found that the experimental group had significant improvements in measures of apathy.

The researchers were quick to point out that while the Ritalin was successful in reducing apathetic behaviours, the drug is not a cure for Alzheimers. However, the impact is still important. By reducing apathy, not only can caregivers maintain a relationship with their loved ones, but therapists like us can also benefit from the increased motivation and engagement that results from Alzheimers clients treated with Ritalin! Imagine how much more benefit a client could receive from communication therapy.

What other client populations might benefit from a drug that reduces behaviours that might get in the way of  effective therapy? Leave a comment below!

– Adele Courchesne

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