Elderly Dementia Patients Fair Better Under Managed Care Than Chemical Restraint Drugs: Study

The findings of a new study indicate that effective management of nursing home patients suffering from dementia is far better than attempting to sedate them with antipsychotic medication, which could carry serious and potentially life-threatening side effects. 

In a study presented on July 25 at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto, Australian researchers indicate that a program which specifically trained nursing home employees to deal with patients suffering from dementia turned in far better results than when the elderly patients were medicated with psychotropic drugs. The findings have not yet been published for peer-review, meaning its findings should be considered preliminary.

The research involved 156 patients over the age of 60 in 24 different Australian nursing homes, all given antipsychotic medications regularly. The study took 135 patients off the drugs and treated nurses who oversaw them how to handle aggressive, violent and difficult behaviors that occur with dementia. After a year, 76% of those patients were still off the drugs.

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Antipsychotic medications like Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel and others may pose serious risks when prescribed for “chemical restraint”. In many cases, patients receiving these medications in nursing homes suffer from dementia, and studies have shown that antipsychotics not only provide no benefits for dementia patients, but could increase their chance of dying.

The FDA has previously warned against the use of antipsychotics with dementia patients, indicating that the medications provide no benefits and may increase the risk of death. Given what is known about the potential side effects of antipsychotics, use of the medications is often considered a form of elderly abuse when the purpose is to sedate the individual, rather than treat.

In September 2014, the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care announced that it has set a goal of reducing the use of antipsychotics in long-term care facilities by 25% before the end of 2015. The group, headed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) hopes to see reductions of 30% by the end of 2016.

However, currently about 25% of elderly dementia patients in nursing homes in the U.S. are treated with antipsychotics, many of whom, if not most or all, do not need them.


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