Management of the most common type of dementia--Alzheimer's disease--is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Differentiation of Alzheimer's disease from vascular dementia has become therapeutically important, since the choice of treatments depends on the diagnosis. Two cholinesterase inhibitors, donepezil and tacrine, are labeled for use in patients with Alzheimer's disease. Other therapies, such as estrogen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and vitamin E, are sometimes used and show promise in delaying the progression of this dementia. Behavior problems, which often accompany the disease, can be managed using environmental modification, alterations in caregiving and medication. In the terminal phase of the illness, quality care involves implementing advance directives, communicating with the family, individualizing care and attending to patient comfort.