Treating Dementia With Antipsychotic Meds Could Be Dangerous

Posted on June 1, 2012

Federal authorities are trying to cut back on the number of antipsychotic medications that persons living in nursing homes receive.

In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration began telling doctors that elderly persons with dementia who are treated by such means find themselves at a greater risk of experiencing a fatality.  Therefore, antipsychotic medications were declared as not something that should be used in the treatment of psychosis brought about by dementia.

But just because they’re not indicated for that use, doesn’t mean antipsychotic medications aren’t still used for just that purpose.  The American Health Care Association says that the overprescription of antipsychotic drugs is a problem that must be dealt with.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a report stating that 39% of people in nursing homes who exhibited signs of dementia in 2010 were treated with antipsychotic drugs once or more, with 17% receiving such treatment daily.

Instead, the CMS recommends other forms of treatment that don’t carry the same type of risk.  In fact, they advise methods that don’t involve pharmaceuticals at all.  Such treatment could include an increase in exercise and outdoor activity, patients consistently receiving assistance from the same staff members instead of a revolving door of people, and an improvement in the way that acute and chronic pain is managed.

These efforts to improve care are the result of a variety of agencies coming together for an initiative called The Partnership to Improve Dementia Care.

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