Caregivers express hope with new URMC Alzheimer's study

Updated: 02/18/2014 11:47 PM
Created: 02/18/2014 11:04 PM WHEC.com
By: Lynette Adams

It’s more than likely you or someone you know has been directly affected by Alzheimer's disease.

One of the toughest symptoms family members of an Alzheimer's patient are forced to watch is seeing their loved ones become more short-tempered, or even verbally or physically abusive.

But a new study led by a University of Rochester doctor is giving patients and their caregivers hope.

Researchers found 40-percent of patients who took the drug commonly known as Celexa or Cipramil felt considerable relief from their symptoms, compared with 26-percent in a group who took a placebo.  

Doctors say the patients weren't the only ones who felt better.

“The difference was actually enough that the caregivers of the patients that got the medication had reduced distress,” said Dr. Anton Porsteinsson, UR Medicine.

On Tuesday News10NBC spoke with a local woman about who knows all too well what these findings could mean for thousands of people in our area.

This is huge for caregivers. Tuesday night News10NBC learned it's often a rollercoaster ride for them. The person with the disease can be cooperative one day, refuse to cooperate the next and the third day say they wish they could die. So the medication could help improve the quality of life for both of them.

“It was hard, sometimes I would just go in my bedroom and cry,” said Toni Lomax.

Lomax is talking about the two years she was her mother's sole caregiver.

Lomax works full-time. Caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s became too much, so two years ago she placed her in a nursing care facility.

When News10NBC shared the results of the study, Lomax said the medication could have made a difference for her mom.

“If she wasn't so agitated and things didn’t make her so upset, maybe she could have continued going to her program on a daily basis, because that’s what we started out doing. She would go to a program, then I would go to work. But then she stopped going. She didn't want to go. She'd go one day and I was like, I can't do this,” said Lomax.

Mollie Richards and her husband Ralph founded the Mt. Olivet Alzheimer’s Ministry at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Rochester. They were our 2012 Jefferson Award Winners for a decade of work.

“I'm very excited to hear the news, because we work directly with caregivers,” said Richards.

Richards, whose father and mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s, says this shows researchers are concerned not only for the person with Alzheimer’s, but also for their caregiver.

“A caregiver’s burden is very high. I don't know if you've heard. We used to hear it all the time that often the caregiver dies before the person with Alzheimer’s because of the stress of caring for someone that is agitated, that you have difficulty communicating with. So this would be very, very beneficial,” said Richards.
There are other anti-psychotic drugs that are prescribed for people with Alzheimer’s, but they can significantly increase a person's risk of stroke, heart attack, or death.

Researchers found a moderate dose of Celexa may not carry these risks or side effects, but this study is far from over.

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