Why Are Dementia Patients Getting Risky Psychiatric Drugs?

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From HealthDay: “As many as 3 in 4 older adults with dementia have been prescribed drugs that may pose a risk to them, researchers report.

The drugs in the study included commonly prescribed medications that can affect the brain or nervous system, such as sedatives, painkillers and antidepressants.

‘There just is not a lot of evidence that these medications are helpful in people with dementia. When I think about somebody who has dementia and the way the brain is changing, it seems like it’s not a great thing to be exposing their brain to these drugs when the brain is already having trouble dealing with the changes going on from the dementia,’ said study author Dr. Donovan Maust, a geriatric psychiatrist from the University of Michigan and VA Ann Arbor Health System.”

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10 COMMENTS

  1. “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

    -Hubert H. Humphrey

    “There just is not a lot of evidence that these medications are helpful in people with dementia,” or the children, or anyone at all. Yeah to psychiatry, and their “bullshit,” “invalid,” and gas lighting DSM “bible” belief system (sarcasm). Whose forced druggings are mass murdering “the children,” “the elderly,” “the sick, the needy and the handicapped,” and even the healthy on a massive societal scale.

    https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/directors/thomas-insel/blog/2015/mortality-and-mental-disorders.shtml

    • There is not only “not a lot of evidence,” there is NONE. The only “help” that neuroleptics provide in those with dementia is for the staff who have to deal with it. It makes the residents more “manageable”, that’s all. And of course, it kills them off early, too, per the black box warning. But that doesn’t seem to bother most of the people involved in the adult care industry.

    • They can be life savers though for families trying to manage violent or unmanageable behaviors brought on by brain deterioration from dementia. Some people don’t have these symptoms. Some do.

      I agree that Big Pharma is ruthless and making profits by pushing and lying about drugs. That said, sometimes these drugs have desired effects that allow for families to cope with loved ones with dementia. I know they can be easily overused, but unless you have experienced losing a spouse or close family member to dementia, please don’t assume one argument addresses all situations.

      Please know that I agree with 95% of what most of you have shared. There can be a time though that these drugs, on balance, improve the overall situation when caring for a person with dementia.

      • The problem with this is that once you make it OK to use these in “extreme cases,” very quickly, it becomes OK to use in ANY case, because there is no objective standard to justify their use. And making people more tractable isn’t really a “medical” issue, anyway, it’s a social management issue.

        There are also lots of ways to intervene with dementia patients that don’t involve drugging them into submission, and these are rarely even considered before going to the drug solution. Yet information on these is buried deep! I just did a search on “alternative approaches for dementia” and got only drugs and “complimentary medicine” (herbs and homeopathy, etc). I had to go for “psychosocial approaches to Dementia” to get any hits worth looking at. This is because dementia has been redefined and captured by the psychiatric industry and all other approaches have been suppressed.

        My wife’s dad had Alzheimer’s and was put on Risperdal because he was grabbing the nurses arms too hard. He went from being quite interactive and gregarious within a very short time to being unable to sit up, head thrashing from side to side, trying to but unable to talk, obviously in utter misery. No one at the facility seemed to know or care that the drug had done this. Ginny got her mom to take him off the drug, and within three days, he had recovered most of his personality and communication ability. When he grabbed her arms to tightly, she said, “Dad, you’re grabbing too hard, it hurts!” And he stopped grabbing. That easy! And yet they felt it was OK to drug him into insensibility and near paralysis because he didn’t just do what they wanted without having to communicate with him respectfully.

        Yes, dementia is very difficult to deal with, and yes, antipsychotics make them easier for caretakers to manage, but the dangers of abuse of power by the facilities or other caretakers are extreme, not to mention the risk of early death that they convey. I would not allow my loved ones to be put on these drugs. They are for the convenience of the caretakers, and remove any incentive for them to actually figure out a loving way to handle the difficulties such people present.

        • I hear you about the slippery slope. We used a dialogic approach (based on Open Dialogue) successfully with my 19 year old son to avoid hospitalization and the biomedical model approach to altered states…and 6 years later he has moved beyond these (for him) largely existential and growing up in this crazy world difficulties. I know what you are referring to in terms of the abuse potential. And I agree environmental interventions and supports can also help tremendously.

          Still, unless you have been in someone else’s specific shoes, as a spouse for example caring for a spouse with behavioral variant FTD, a young dementia, who is threatening and assaulting your six year old son – or you as his spouse (true situations) and even nursing homes will not take someone this violent, it is not always possible to manage things and keep everyone’s interests and needs met.

          I don’t believe it is just about the person with dementia’s needs, although obviously important, but also everyone around them too. Unless you’ve been in these situations I hope you don’t make sweeping statements that feel very judgmental and unhelpful to real world situations. We don’t help caregivers in these situations, especially spousal caregivers much at all on top of it as a society. They are expected to spend all of their spouse’s and their retirement savings too before there is much of any help at all with what becomes 24/7 care.

          I know for a fact that some of these tranquilizing neuroleptics have helped some otherwise unmanageable situations. Being too rigid really can hurt our message in my opinion.

          With sincerity, C

  2. My husband has been diagnosed with advanced Early Onset Alzheimer’s and FTD. Many with this form of dementia, especially behavioral variant FTD (a younger onset dementia) can become extremely upset and anxious, aggressive and behave violently toward others, sometimes their own children. This is a result of organic brain changes.

    While I agree that psych meds are extremely misrepresented by profit driven drug companies and they should be used only with full informed consent and for minimum amounts of time if ever, I have been humbled as a spouse of someone with dementia. This condition is not related to something that can be addressed with therapy or other means, beyond a point.

    Medications to calm and tranquilize a person with dementia can be overused and abused no doubt. Neuroleptic drugs used in those with Lewy Body Dementia in particular can have some of the worst side effects so should be used minimally. But I would also say that these drugs do often lessen some of the most hard to manage behaviors and can be lifesavers for families and caregivers. The last caregiving family members need is judgement for managing a terribly difficult, lonely, financially and emotionally draining, sad, and sometimes dangerous situation.

    Hoping there can be an appreciation of the complexities in these situations.

  3. Why Are Dementia Patients Getting Risky Psychiatric Drugs?

    Ill have a go at it — because that’s the only kind there are?

    This initially struck me as one of those “why did the chicken cross the road?” jokes; I have to keep reminding myself I’m not reading The Onion.

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