Treating Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Given the complex nature of the condition, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment to cure Alzheimer’s disease (AD).1,2 Rather, Alzheimer’s treatment should be individualized based on each person’s symptoms, response to the treatment, and associated side effects.2,3 While there is no cure, the overall goals of treatment involve treating the underlying disease process, helping people preserve their mental capacity for longer, and managing behavioral symptoms.4

Just as with early detection and diagnosis of AD, starting treatment as early as possible can help improve quality of life and preserve daily functioning.2,5 Available pharmacologic treatments include mediations that can either temporarily treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease related to memory or thinking, or those that treat the underlying cause for disease.6,7

Non-pharmacologic interventions do not change the underlying disease course; however, these interventions are often implemented to help maintain or improve cognitive function as well as reduce behavioral symptoms.2 Such intervention can include cognitive stimulation, music-based therapy, psychological treatment (ie, cognitive behavioral therapy), physical therapy/exercise, and a healthy diet.8,9

Medications That Treat Alzheimer's Symptoms

Prescription cholinesterase inhibitors (like donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine) and memantine, an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, are among the first drugs tried in people with AD.1 These drugs work by affecting neurotransmitters, special chemicals responsible for communication between nerve cells in the brain.1,11 By improving nerve cell communication, these drugs can help preserve mental function.11 However, they don’t work for everyone and since they don’t address the underlying disease process, they may only help for a limited amount of time.6,11

Medications Targeting Alzheimer's Disease Progression

Newer drugs, called monoclonal antibodies, may help improve the underlying disease process in AD.6 These medications targeting Alzheimer’s work by decreasing amyloid deposits in the brain.6,12-14 Currently, aducanumab and lecanemab have received FDA approval for the treatment of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early (mild) stage of AD, while others like donanemab and gantenerumab are in the research pipelines.6,11,16

Caring for people with AD is a team effort.17-20 Caregivers and medical providers work together to find the best treatment options and develop care plans as Alzheimer’s Disease progresses.20,21 Often caregivers will coordinate with their medical care team, which often includes doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, and supportive care.17 This can also include elder law attorneys and geriatric care managers.17 Using a multidisciplinary approach to care can help both caregivers and patients achieve the best quality of life and health outcomes.


  1. Alzheimer’s Association®. What is Alzheimer’s disease?
  2. National Institute on Aging (NIA). Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet.
  3. Alzheimer’s Association®. Medications for memory, cognition and dementia-related behaviors.
  4. Alzheimer’s Association®. Management.
  5. Alzheimer’s Association®. Early detection and diagnosis.
  6. Alzheimer’s Association®. Treatments and research.
  7. National Institute on Aging (NIA). How is Alzheimer’s Disease Treated.
  8. Alzheimer’s Association®. 2022 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures: special report. More than normal aging: understanding mild cognitive impairment. Alzheimer’s Dement. 2022;18.
  9. Kumar A, Sidhu J, Goyal A, et al. Alzheimer Disease. StatPearls. 2022.
  10. Behera S. Cognitive behavior therapy: Introduction, methodology and benefits of CBT. 1/9/2014.
  11. Press, D & Buss, SS. Treatment of Alzheimer Disease. UpToDate.
  12. Lily Press Release. Lilly releases donanemab data that demonstrated the relationship between reduction of amyloid plaque and slowing of cognitive decline.
  13. Swanson CJ, Zhang Y, Dhadda S, et al. A randomized, double-blind, phase 2b proof-of-concept clinical trial in early Alzheimer’s disease with lecanemab, an anti-Aβ protofibril antibody Alzheimers Res Ther. 2021;13:80.
  14. Klein G, Delmar P, Voyle N, et al. Gantenerumab reduces amyloid-β plaques in patients with prodromal to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a PET substudy interim analysis. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2019;11:101.
  15. Tampi RR, Forester BP, Agronin M. Aducanumab: evidence from clinical trial data and controversies. Drugs Context. 2021;10:2021-7-3.
  16. Lecanemab (Leqembi®) Prescribing Information. January 2023.
  17. Ellison JM. Understanding the healthcare team in Alzheimer’s disease. 8/11/2021.
  18. Jurkowski CL. A Multidisciplinary Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease: Who Should Be Members of the Team? Am J Med. 1998;104(suppl 1);13S-16S.
  19. UCSF Department of Radiology & Biomedical Imaging. Radiology’s Role in Determining the Impact of Amyloid PET Imaging on Real-World Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care. 6/19/2019.
  20. Alzheimer’s Association®. Caregiving.
  21. Alzheimer’s Association®. Working with care providers.

All URL’s accessed January 27, 2023

Scientific Council

Liana G. Apostolova, MD, MSc, FAAN

Indiana University Distinguished Professor
Barbara and Peer Baekgaard Professor in Alzheimer's Disease Research
Professor in Neurology, Radiology, Medical and Molecular Genetics
Indiana University School of Medicine
Department of Neurology
Indianapolis, IN

Alireza Atri, MD, PhD

Director, Banner Sun Health Research Institute
Banner Health
Sun City, AZ
Lecturer on Neurology, Center for Brain/Mind Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA

Ariel F. Cole, MD, FAAFP

Program Director, AdventHealth Geriatric Fellowship
Winter Park, FL

Brad Dickerson, MD

Director, Frontotemporal Disorders Unit
Massachusetts General Hospital
Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA

Richard M. Dupee, MD, MACP, AGSF

Clinical Professor of Medicine
Tufts University School of Medicine
Clinical professor, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University
Chief, Geriatrics Service, Tufts Medical Center
Senior Physician, Pratt Diagnostic Center
Dean ex officio, Office of International Affairs, Tufts University School of Medicine
Boston, MA

James E. Galvin, MD, MPH

Professor of Neurology
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
Miami, FL

David S. Geldmacher, MD

Professor and Director
Division of Memory Disorders and Behavioral Neurology
Department of Neurology
Heersink School of Medicine
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Birmingham, AL

George T. Grossberg MD

Professor and Director, Division of Geriatric Psychiatry
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience
Saint Louis University School of Medicine
St. Louis, MO

Scott A. Kaiser, MD

Director of Geriatric Cognitive Health
Pacific Neuroscience Institute
Santa Monica, CA

Diana R. Kerwin, MD, CPI

President, Kerwin Medical Center
Chief, Geriatric Medicine, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital
Dallas, TX

Scott McGinnis, MD

Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment
Brigham and Women's Hospital
Frontotemporal Disorders Unit
Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, MA

Giulio M. Pasinetti, MD, PhD

The Saunders Family Chair and Professor of Neurology
Director of the Center for Molecular Integrative Neuroresilience,
Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Professor of Geriatrics and Adult Development
Department of Neurology and Friedman Brain Institute
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, NY

Marwan N. Sabbagh, MD, FAAN, CCRI

Professor of Neurology
Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders Division
Associate Program Director for Research-Neurology Residency
Barrow Neurological Institute
Research Professor, University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix
Clinical Professor of Neurology, Creighton University
Phoenix, AZ

Paul E. Schulz, MD

Rick McCord Professor in Neurology
Umphrey Family Professor of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Director, Neurocognitive Disorders Center
Director, Neurocognitive Disorders Fellowship
McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston
Houston, TX

Geoffrey C. Wall, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS

John R. Ellis Distinguished Chair of Pharmacy Practice
Professor of Clinical Sciences
Director, Drake Drug Information Center
Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Internal Medicine Clinical Pharmacist
Iowa Methodist Medical Center
Des Moines, IA

David A. Wolk, MD, FAAN

Professor of Neurology
Director, Penn Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA