A recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office addresses the bombastic overuse of anti-psychotic medication for suppressing behavior problems in dementia patients. The report finds that one-third of elders with dementia who stayed in a nursing home in 2012 were prescribed an anti-psychotic medication. Of elders living at home with dementia, 14 percent were prescribed the drugs as well. It’s a trend that should startle any caregiver or family member.
When the behavioral issues associated with dementia are drowned out by mind-altering drugs, the elderly patient feels liked they are not loved at all, not cared for, not understood and not listened to. Subjecting dementia patients to anticholinergic meds like antidepressants only makes their condition worse. Anticholinergic meds work by blocking a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. In doing so, these meds stop acetylcholine from naturally binding to its receptors in the brain. This slows cognitive processing, making elderly dementia patients slower and more mentally impaired than they were before.
Doctors and nursing home staff work in a hasty manner, treating patients like numbers and drugging their symptoms while ignoring what the person truly needs. Dementia patients are most likely already conflicted with a daily regimen of pills. More of the same only pulls them closer to their grave while numbing their ability to function.
Why are medical professionals abandoning non-drug approaches? Why do caretakers follow along with the prescriptions? Health insurance plans and state medical aid don’t pay doctors and caregivers for taking the time to actually listen to patients. Pharmaceutical drugs are the quickest way to drown out problems. They are systematically easier to push, but they are destroying our elders’ quality of living, pulling them deeper into a culture of hopelessness.