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How long does it take for a medication for dementia to work?

Sarah N. Mourra, MD
Neurology
There haven’t been studies that quantify exactly when medications for dementia start to work or don’t start to work, but generally they start working within a one- to two-month period of starting the medication. These medications must be titrated up to the appropriate dose over a period of time. I’ve had people say within a couple of weeks they sensed a difference in their loved one in terms of energy, engagement and interest, and sometimes improvements in behavior.
 
When doctors talk about improvements in the cognitive symptoms, it’s not a dramatic improvement at all. If anything, the medications are essentially working to just keep the person where they’re at for a longer period of time.
 
Family members often wonder whether the medication is working or not. There may be some subtle changes that they see, but for the most part, to know whether the medication is actually working you must look at where the person was before being on the medicine and how far he or she declined, or how quickly the decline was compared to being on the medicine. It’s very challenging.
 
Doctors do know though that there are situations where the people stop medications for a few weeks, and caregivers notice a steeper decline. That’s when it’s important to follow up with the doctor if the decision was made to stop the medication because it was felt that the medication was not doing anything, and start to monitor the person closely.
David A. Merrill, MD
Psychiatry
If a person with dementia starts treatment with a medication, he or she should expect behavioral improvements within two to four weeks, or a relatively short time-frame. A follow-up can certainly be done within a month. This can be done via a face-to-face appointment with the doctor or by a phone call.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.