FDA grants approval of new Alzheimer’s drug called Aducanumab
On June 7th, 2021, North Star Senior Advisors has the humbling privilege to announce the historic FDA approval of Biogen’s Aduhelm (aducanumab), a new drug to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s affects 6.2 million Americans and this is the first new treatment approved for the disease in nearly 20 years! The drug was approved using the accelerated approval pathway, which typically occurs for a serious or life-threatening illness that will have an advantage over what is currently being used to treat illnesses.
FDA is currently requiring Biogen to conduct a randomized, controlled clinical trial to verify this new drug’s benefit. It’s important to note though in the event the trial fails to prove the drug’s clinical benefit, the FDA may withdraw its approval.
There have been warning signs for Aduhelm to be aware of as well called “amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA)”, which most commonly presents itself as temporary swelling in certain areas of the brain that usually goes down over time. Some people may experience headaches, confusion, dizziness, vision changes, or nausea but it is less likely. Overall, the most common side effects of Aduhelm were this ARIA, headaches, falls, diarrhea, and confusion/delirium/altered mental status/disorientation.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia, a broader term used for conditions caused by brain injuries or diseases that typically affect those who are older. The disease negatively affects memory, thinking, and behavior. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Most people with the disease get a diagnosis after age 65. If it’s diagnosed before then, it’s generally referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s at the moment, but there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease like most recently, FDA grants approval of new Alzheimer’s drug, aducanumab.
Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s
The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are sometimes used interchangeably. However, these two conditions are not the same. In fact, Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia just like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s Disease, or even a traumatic brain injury. Dementia is a broader term to describe an individual who is experiencing memory loss such as forgetfulness and confusion but there are several other symptoms associated with this disease.
Although many people have heard of Alzheimer’s disease, some aren’t sure exactly what it is. Here are some facts about this condition:
- Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic ongoing condition.
- Its symptoms come on gradually and the effects on the brain are degenerative, meaning they cause a slow decline.
- There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s but treatment can help slow the progression of the disease and may improve quality of life.
- Anyone can be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but certain people are at higher risk for it. This includes people over age 65 and those with a family history of the condition.
- Alzheimer’s and dementia aren’t the same things. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia.
- There’s no single expected outcome for people with Alzheimer’s. Some people live a long time with mild cognitive damage, while others experience a more rapid onset of symptoms and quicker disease progression.
How Do I Help My Loved One Who Has Alzheimer’s?
There is no one right way to help. Every person’s experience is different but with the right tools and knowledge, your loved one can still have a wonderful qualify of life throughout their journey. If you are caring for your loved one, there are several ways to help make the day easier.
One method we recommend to a senior loved one who has Dementia or Alzheimer’s that asks a question that may be commonly known but not to them, is to use therapeutic fibbing in your reply. This means that you may need to “fib” from time to time. For example, if they think that a loved one who has passed away is still alive and coming home like their own parents, you will need to go into their in their world and tell them what they want to hear. They may ask, “when is my mom coming home?” Your response can be, “oh, your mom will be home soon, she is at the grocery store right now.” Essentially, if you tell them the truth instead of what they believe is true, you will only agitate them more as they are not in the same place mentally. Your loved one may be reverting back to an older time in their mind, so it doesn’t make it any easier if you try to tell them something that they do not believe.
There are also several support groups, community resources, and counseling services available for you and your loved one in the local area. As senior advisors, we are happy to point you in the right direction and provide resources to not only offer education but the ability to take breaks from time to time so you do not experience caregiver burnout.
Memory Care may also be an option
Most people find it emotionally difficult to place their loved ones in a memory care community. They may have promised them they would never do that. No one likes to break promises and plus, you are left feeling guilty. It’s so critical to understand you are not alone in this journey and there comes a time when safety is more important than a promise.
Also, the older generation has certain connotations to these types of “facilities” and honestly, I don’t blame them. Not too long ago, the only thing available was either a mental hospital or something very similar. However, what we have today is nothing of the sort and the term facility is rarely used. Now we call them memory care communities which are similar to an assisted living community, where you reside in a home-like environment with actual apartments. Mom, Dad, Grandma, or Grandpa can have their own living space and be a part of a community setting with the ability to participate in engaging activities, receive three home-cooked meals a day and socialize with others in a safe environment.
North Star Senior Advisors is so excited about this new announcement as the FDA grants approval of new Alzheimer’s drug. We thank the FDA and scientists worldwide for the tireless efforts to find treatments and hopefully one day a cure. Today, we welcome this historic time and hope it will be transformative throughout the globe.
North Star is Here for You
If you or a loved one is experiencing memory changes, the North Star team strongly encourages speaking with a Senior Advisor for a thorough evaluation and to discuss community resources as well as memory care options if interested.
North Star Senior Advisors provide support and guidance through your transition into senior living, assisted living, and memory care for free. We’ll explain the process, provide an overview of senior living communities, and schedule tours to ensure that you find that perfect new home. Having an advocate during your search is important to help you locate appropriate options as well as guide you through your search and devise a perfect solution. We also recommend reading reviews and talking to other resident family members in memory care! Making a decision to place your loved one is hard but making the wrong decision is even worse. North Star Senior Advisors is here to help!
For more information about what we do, call a senior living advisor at 407-796-1582 or visit www.northstarsa.com.