Assessing and treating clients with dementia

  BACKGROUND

Mr. Akkad is a 76 year old Iranian male who is brought to your office by his eldest son for “strange behavior.” Mr. Akkad was seen by his family physician who ruled out any organic basis for Mr. Akkad’s behavior. All laboratory and diagnostic imaging tests (including CT-scan of the head) were normal.

According to his son, he has been demonstrating some strange thoughts and behaviors for the past two years, but things seem to be getting worse. Per the client’s son, the family noticed that Mr. Akkad’s personality began to change a few years ago. He began to lose interest in religious activities with the family and became more “critical” of everyone. They also noticed that things he used to take seriously had become a source of “amusement” and “ridicule.”

Over the course of the past two years, the family has noticed that Mr. Akkad has been forgetting things. His son also reports that sometimes he has difficult “finding the right words” in a conversation and then will shift to an entirely different line of conversation.

SUBJECTIVE

During the clinical interview, Mr. Akkad is pleasant, cooperative and seems to enjoy speaking with you. You notice some confabulation during various aspects of memory testing, so the PMHNP performs a Mini-Mental State Exam. Mr. Akkad scores 18 out of 30 with primary deficits in orientation, registration, attention & calculation, and recall. The score suggests moderate dementia.

MENTAL STATUS EXAM

Mr. Akkad is 76 year old Iranian male who is cooperative with today’s clinical interview. His eye contact is poor. Speech is clear, coherent, but tangential at times. He makes no unusual motor movements and demonstrates no tic. Self-reported mood is euthymic. Affect however is restricted. He denies visual or auditory hallucinations. No delusional or paranoid thought processes noted. He is alert and oriented to person, partially oriented to place, but is disoriented to time and event [he reports that he thought he was coming to lunch but “wound up here”- referring to your office, at which point he begins to laugh]. Insight and judgment are impaired. Impulse control is also impaired as evidenced by Mr. Akkad’s standing up during the clinical interview and walking towards the door. When the PMHNP asked where he was going, he stated that he did not know. Mr. Akkad denies suicidal or homicidal ideation.

Diagnosis: Major neurocognitive disorder due to Alzheimer’s disease (presumptive)

RESOURCES

§ Folstein, M. F., Folstein, S. E., & McHugh, P. R. (2002). Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Decision Point One

Select what the PMHNP should do:

 Begin Exelon (rivastigmine) 1.5 mg orally BID with an increase to 3 mg orally BID in 2 weeks

 Begin Aricept (donepezil) 5 mg orally at BEDTIME

 Begin Razadyne (galantamine) 4 mg orally BID

Decision Point Two

Select what the PMHNP should do next:

 Increase Exelon to 4.5 mg orally BID

 Increase Exelon to 6 mg orally BID

 Discontinue Exelon and begin Namenda (memantine) 10 mg orally BID

Decision Point Three

Select what the PMHNP should do next:

 Increase Exelon to 6 mg orally BID

 Maintain current dose of Exelon

 Add Namenda (memantine) 5 mg orally per day

My decisions

Decision Point One

 Begin Exelon (rivastigmine) 1.5 mg orally BID with an increase to 3 mg orally BID in 2 weeks

RESULTS OF DECISION POINT ONE

  • Client      returns to clinic in four weeks
  • The      client is accompanied by his son who reports that his father is “no      better” from this medication. He reports that his father is still      disinterested in attending religious services/activities, and continues to      exhibit disinhibited behaviors
  • You      continue to note confabulation and decide to administer the MMSE again.      Mr. Akkad again scores 18 out of 30 with primary deficits in orientation,      registration, attention & calculation, and recall

Decision Point Two

 Increase Exelon to 4.5 mg orally BID

RESULTS OF DECISION POINT TWO

  • Client      returns to clinic in four weeks
  • Client’s      son reports that the client is tolerating the medication well, but is      still concerned that his father is no better
  • He      states that his father is attending religious services with the family,      which the son and the rest of the family is happy about. He reports that      his father is still easily amused by things he once found serious

Decision Point Three

 Increase Exelon to 6 mg orally BID

Guidance to Student

 

At this point, the client is reporting no side effects and is participating in an important part of family life (religious services). This could speak to the fact that the medication may have improved some symptoms. The PMHNP needs to counsel the client’s son on the trajectory of presumptive Alzheimer’s disease in that it is irreversible, and while cholinesterase inhibitors can stabilize symptoms, this process can take months. Also, these medications are incapable of reversing the degenerative process. Some improvements in problematic behaviors (such as disinhibition) may be seen, but not in all clients.

At this point, the PMHNP could maintain the current dose until the next visit in 4 weeks, or the PMHNP could increase it to 6 mg orally BID and see how the client is doing in 4 more weeks. Augmentation with Namenda is another possibility, but the PMHNP should maximize the dose of the cholinesterase inhibitor before adding augmenting agents. However, some experts argue that combination therapy should be used from the onset of treatment.

Finally, it is important to note that changes in the MMSE should be evaluated over the course of months, not weeks. The absence of change in the MMSE after 4 weeks of treatment should not be a source of concern.

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