Nursing Homes Beginning To Reduce Antipsychotic Drugs For Dementia Patients

James Johnson

Antipsychotic drugs are most typically used to control delusions, hallucinations and abnormal behavior in people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder but more recently they have been prescribed to hundreds of thousands of elderly nursing home patients in the U.S., an aggressive approach that appears to be slowing.

According to various studies antipsychotic drugs can limit an elderly persons ability to communicate, socialize and participate in everyday life.

Some doctors claim they need to use the drugs to control a small number of dementia patients with psychotic behavior who are a danger to themselves and others, a percentage of the dementia population that doesn't match the number of drugs currently being prescribed.

In a three-year-old program called "Awakenings" health care providers are being encouraged to use exercise, aromatherapy, pets and other methods in the place of drugs, the study has been able to remove antopsychotic's from a patients body and get them listening to music, playing video games and even playing balloon volleyball.

Demonstrating the abundance of antipsychotic drugs being prescribed a government audit in May examined Medicare payments for atypical antipsychotics and found that in a six-month period one in seven nursing home patients 65-year and older had been prescribed the drugs.

Adding to the danger of prescribing the drugs to seniors the FDA has been issuing warnings since 2005, notifying doctors that there is an increased risk of death in patients with dementia due to heart attacks or pneumonia.

The drugs known as typical antipsychotics were added to the FDA warning three years later.

Do you know a nursing home patient who was prescribed antipsychotic drugs, what were the effects?