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Guidelines for Alzheimer's Disease Management

This report updates and expands the Guidelines for Alzheimer's Disease Management (California Workgroup on Guidelines for Alzheimer's Disease Management, 2002), which itself was a revision of the California Workgroup's original Guideline published in 1998. All of these documents were based upon work begun by the Ad Hoc Standards of Care Committee of the Alzheimer's Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centers (ADDTCs) of California (Hewett, Bass, Hart, Butrum, 1995) and were supported in part by the State of California, Department of Health Services, and the Alzheimer's Association, California Southland Chapter.


More than 5 million Americans now have Alzheimer's Disease (Alzheimer's Association, 2008), an increase of 25% since the previous version of this Guideline was published. Alzheimer's Disease destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior severe enough to affect work, family and social relationships, and, eventually, the most basic activities of daily living. Alzheimer's Disease gets worse over time, it is incurable, and it is fatal. Today it is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and the fifth leading cause for individuals 65 and older (Alzheimer's Association).

Since the 2002 revision was completed, there has been an explosion of research in the field, generating new insights into the progression, treatment, and management of Alzheimer's Disease. The revised Guideline and this report are based in large part on a review of journal articles and meta-analyses published after 2001, incorporating the results of this tremendous body of new work.

Most older adults - including those with Alzheimer's Disease - receive their medical care from Primary Care Practitioners (PCPs) (Callahan et al., 2006), who may lack the information and other resources they need to treat this growing and demanding population (Reuben, Roth, Kamberg, Wenger, 2003). Nevertheless, PCPs should be able to provide or recommend a wide variety of services beyond medical management of Alzheimer's Disease and comorbid conditions, including recommendations regarding psychosocial issues, assistance to families and caregivers, and referral to legal and financial resources in the community. Many specialized services are available to help patients and families manage these aspects of AD, such as adult day services, respite care, and skilled nursing care, as well as helplines and outreach services operated by the Alzheimer's Association, Area Agencies on Aging, Councils on Aging, and Caregiver Resource Centers. This Guideline is intended to provide assistance to PCPs in offering comprehensive care to patients with Alzheimer's Disease and those who care for them over the course of their illness.

Because the Guideline is intended for use by PCPs who will encounter Alzheimer's Disease in the course of their work, we use the word "patients" throughout this report. However, it is important to recognize that the needs of people with Alzheimer's Disease and their families extend far beyond the realm of medical treatment, and that PCPs will be called upon to provide a wide spectrum of information and resources to assist them in dealing with this challenging, sometimes overwhelming condition.


The 2002 Guideline was written prior to the development and testing of some new pharmacological agents, as well as numerous non-pharmacological interventions designed to improve disease management and quality of life for both Alzheimer's Disease patients and their caregivers. Although some of these treatment methods were already in use, few were supported by evidence of efficacy from well-designed clinical trials. In many cases, this evidence now exists, and it is discussed in the current revision.

A notable advance in pharmacological treatment of Alzheimer's Disease was the introduction of memantine (Namenda) in October 2003, a year after release of the previous version of this Guideline. The first drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of moderate to severe Alzheimer's Disease, memantine has become an important component of treatment for many patients. The Treatment section includes two tables devoted to its use.

In the ensuing 6 years, additional emphasis on other topics relevant to the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease, along with the needs of patients and their families, has become apparent. These topics include, among others:

  • the importance of cultural and linguistic factors in Alzheimer's Disease treatment;
  • the conduct of legal capacity evaluations; and
  • the special needs of early-stage and late-stage patients and their families

The revised report includes much new material regarding these critically important subjects, as well as updated references for many points discussed in previous versions.


This version of the report also has been reformatted for convenience and ease of use, with appendices containing copies of many of the assessment instruments and forms cited in the text. Websites containing valuable resources for both PCPs and patients are included, and the online version of the report contains links to many of these resources.

As with the previous versions, the Guideline's recommendations themselves were designed to fit on one page for handy reference and organized by major care issues (assessment, treatment, patient and family education and support, and legal considerations). The revised and expanded report has been organized to conform to this layout. Each section deals with one of the four care issues and provides an overview of the issue, followed by the care recommendations and a review of the literature supporting them. The language used throughout the report reflects the strength of the supporting evidence, either "strong" (e.g., randomized clinical trial) or "moderate." In some instances, recommendations that are not evidence-based are nevertheless supported by expert opinion and Workgroup consensus, and are labeled as such.

View the full - Guideline for Alzheimer's Disease Management - Final Report 2008

See the updated NIH - Alzheimer's Diagnostic Guideline Validation


California Workgroup on Guidelines for Alzheimer's Disease Management
California Version © April 2008
Used with permission from the Alzheimer's Association of Los Angeles

Reviewed by athealth on February 5, 2014.