Can anti-depressants be taken at the same time as Alzheimer's medicine?

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Q: My still independent mother is being treated with Aricept for early Alzheimer’s and Paxil for mild depression. I thought I heard somewhere that those two drugs shouldn’t be combined, but I forget why.

A: Good memory! OK, I am not a doctor, but I lecture all over the country with top dementia specialists who always say that Paxil is not the best choice to be used with Alzheimer's medication such as Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne or Namenda.

Don't worry, it isn't that the combination is dangerous for your mom. The reason is that in some people Paxil might have a side effect of mild short-term memory loss. Since the goal of the Alzheimer's medication is to slow down the progression of the dementia and short-term memory loss, it doesn't make sense to also take a medication that might be working against it.

Since there are so many anti-depressants available, why gamble with one that might reduce the effectiveness of the dementia medication, even if ever so slightly. That little difference in her memory could mean the difference in your mom remaining independent longer and delaying full-time care.

The right combination of your mom's medications is so important, and hopefully your doctor will be appreciative to learn about this and wiling to try another anti-depressant. Be sure to also discuss the correct procedure for switching meds, as usually the Paxil dosage is gradually reduced, while at the same time the new medication is gradually tapered in.


Jacqueline Marcell cared for her elderly parents with Alzheimer's disease and authored "Elder Rage." She hosts the internet radio program "Coping With Caregiving." Read her full biography

Jacqueline Marcell is a former television executive who was so compelled by caring for her elderly parents (both with early Alzheimer's not diagnosed for over a year) she wrote "Elder Rage." She is also an international speaker on elder care and host of the popular Internet radio program "Coping With Caregiving."

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3 Comments

My wife and I have given up our life for my mom for the past 3 years.
We live at her house and do everything for her, while our own house just sits
15 min. away. We take her to the movies, dancing, & dinners weekly, plus Cub baseball games. I feel so sorry for her with this horrific disease.
I feel my mom & dad were the best parents ever & I need to return the favor
and make God & my dad, who died at 70 in 2004, proud of me. My mom is only 77. But my wife is only 35, I am 50, and my wife is an angel from heaven cooking, cleaning, & entertaining my mom daily. She even wipes her butt 3 times a day and helps her bath & change. We are trying to keep Mom in her own house with a happy & comfortable environment.
My mom has severe mood swings & takes it out on my wife,
yelling & screaming at her to get out of the house, then telling her 10 min. later how she loves her. It has drained us with severe stress for 3 yrs.
We just put her on Seroquil to try and control the mood swings & anger.
My mom is obsessed with me, her son, and wants me there with her 24/7.
Any advice anyone please? We are now interviewing live-in caregivers from Care.com website. Anyone have experience with Seroquil for moods, and
any ideas or help with the moods or son obsession?
My heart bleeds for my mom and this disgusting Dementia/Alzheimers disease, but my wife and I need our life back. We want to enjoy our time and have kids.
Life flys by and it is not fair to my beloved wife. She is amazing to do all she does 24/7 for a mother-in-law.
Please any help/advice/referrals on caregivers, her meds, moods, or dementia situation. She takes Aricept & Namenda and now Seroquil.
Also, her doctor is Dr. Weise who scared us with increased death risks from Seroquil. Anyone have Seroquil knowledge or know Dr. Weise from Alexian Bros.? THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HELPING US!
my wife was on aricept and namenda for years and 3 years ago we also added risperdal as her "hallucinations" became impossible to handle. Yes, we discussed the warnings about the data which showed some increase in heart fatalities, but decided the increased risk was really slight compared to solving the problem. so far, it appears to have been the right decision for us.