Clark, Love & Hutson, GP

Antipsychotic medicine can harm elderly people

For many in Houston, growing older can mean decreased quality of mental health. Dementia is a common ailment for the elderly and can be heartbreaking for families. Antipsychotic medication is frequently prescribed to these patients because of the difficulties they may be having. But for some the antipsychotic medication may havedangerous drug side effects.

Frequently those in a nursing facility who are suffering from dementia are prescribed antipsychotic medication. Dementia can bring out behaviors that can be dangerous to the patient and to caregivers. These patients can often be aggressive and in order to protect others they are often given antipsychotic drugs.

But these drugs can lead to serious injury including an earlier death. Those that are given haloperidol had a 3.8 percent increased risk of death and those who were given olanzapine had a 2.5 percent increased risk of death. Over 30 percent of nursing home residents are given an antipsychotic at some point. This is compared to 14 percent of dementia patients who are not living in a nursing facility.

There are alternatives to prescribing antipsychotic medication. Many times it is finding something that soothes the patient. This can be music for some, art therapy for others or perhaps interacting with birds, dogs or other animals. Families should be aware of what medication their loved ones are receiving and may want to discuss alternatives to antipsychotic medication with their loved one's doctor.

Dementia, including Alzheimer's, is a terrible disease that affects so many people in the Houston area. Families who are dealing with this illness need the support of the medical community and others in order to make their loved ones as comfortable and happy as they can.

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