Antipsychotic medications are supposed to help patients control hallucinations, delusions and various other behavioral problems associated with serious conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. However, these drugs are also given to thousands of residents in nursing homes across the country who suffer from dementia.
The reason why so many dementia patients take antipsychotics and antidepressants like Paxil is because the drugs help to pacify the paranoid and sometimes aggressive behavior that is often displayed by people with dementia. Dementia patients are generally considered to be a danger to themselves and others. While the drug treatment may seem like a benefit, many of those drugs also hinder the senior’s ability to talk, socialize and simply participate in daily activities. These drugs also come with a series of warnings that have caused many doctors in nursing homes to reduce the use of antipsychotic medications. Doing this has proven to result in many positive changes in the patients.
This new system for reducing these drugs creates a personalized care plan that makes use of exercise, aromatherapy, pets and other methods to help dementia patients. Patients that were at one point sedated and detached are now actively “playing video games, listening to music and playing balloon volleyball.”
The choice to reduce drugs was a no-brainer considering that antipsychotics and antidepressants, which were previously a major part of dementia treatment in nursing homes, have been shown to cause severe adverse side effects. Some of the side effects caused the patients to act out more aggressively, which is a side effect of antidepressant drugs like Paxil. Using SSRI medications like Paxil is an off-label use when used to treat symptoms of dementia.
As for the antipsychotics drugs, the FDA issued warnings about those medications in 2005 that stated that the drugs “could increase the risk of death in patients with dementia due to heart attacks or pneumonia.” While the drug-curbing program has proven itself helpful, some nursing homes are still using dangerous drugs like Paxil to treat their dementia patients. If you have an elderly family member with dementia living in a nursing home, you may want to see what treatments they are receiving.