Dementia symptoms are often caused or made much worse by medication and the over-use of medications.
National Public Radio states in their researched article these facts below:
“179,000 nursing home residents are being given anti-psychotic drugs, even though they don’t have schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses that those drugs are designed to treat.
The study concluded that anti-psychotic drugs were often administered without informed consent and for the purpose of making dementia patients easier to handle in understaffed facilities.”
Most of these residents have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia and antipsychotics aren’t approved for that. What’s more, antipsychotic drugs come with a “black box warning” from the FDA, stating that they increase the risk of death in older people with dementia.”
Recent CNN article on the same issue but more sad facts below
“The Government Accountability Office investigationexamined the care provided to Medicaid enrollees and found significant gaps in the reporting of safety and serious health incidents including physical and sexual abuse, medication errors, inappropriate discharge and unexplained death.
More than 20,000 incidents were reported for 2014 in the 22 states that tracked such information. But 26 other states had not tracked “critical incidents,” and therefore could not report the relevant statistics to the accountability office.” A separate government-issued report released Monday, completed at the request of a bipartisan group of US senators, looked at oversight of care in assisted living facilities.”
Most seniors and those in nursing home are taking from 5 to 10 different drugs with side effects compounded by the number of prescriptions. At times the staff administers the medication incorrectly. I will give you an example with my father in law. When they realized he had leukemia, his personal doctor took him off two cholesterol medicines because they are known to cause problems in the production of white blood counts. When he was transferred to the nursing home, that information did not get properly transferred over. They put him back on the medications. I did not know it until two weeks before he died when his white cells crashed completely. I was so angry but by then it was too late to do much. He had stopped eating and drinking as well. The dementia lock up floor had pumped him with so much mood stabilizer medication, he was a zombie and could not even function. He was so drugged, he could not lift a spoon to feed himself. He was acting out so they drugged him up. They over medicated him to make it easier on them. We protested but they deemed it necessary. We protested several times and were ignored. They stated he could not be controlled otherwise.
When he went in, he could talk well and make sense the majority of the time. After two weeks, he could not even talk or feed himself. He was dead 6 weeks later. It still saddens me, that we could not take care of him at home in the end. We couldn’t even get hired help. Once they knew he was a commander, they didn’t want the job. He was a tough man to take care of, but in my opinion the medications were over done to a level of incompetence. He was charged over $7000 a month for a lock up unit that drugged him up and gave him little to do but watch cartoons on TV. We live in an area with very few options for patients like his dad. The Veterans home refused him after first approving his application. That is a whole story in itself I will talk about.
Medications have dramatic effects on memory and cognitive function. You may think your loved one has dementia, when it is the drugs they are taking bringing on the symptoms. It may be side effects from the different drugs they are taking in combination.
Drugs That Make Dementia Worse or Cause Dementia
Anti-anxiety drugs including Xanax and Valium cause short term memory loss, hallucinations, and behavior issues.
Cholesterol lowering drugs such as Lipitor can cause pseudodementia which means the pateint has dementia sypmptoms which are caused from side effects of the drugs they are taking.
OTC and Other Prescription Drugs: anti-histamines, antibiotics, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, antiemetics, muscle relaxants and pain killers can also cause dementia symptoms in themselves or worsen their on going dementia symptoms.
Articles put out by nursing homes talk about their memory care medication advantages. They will say your loved one will benefit from being in these places. They will say that when they are in charge of giving the medicine properly, the person will improve in mental health. It sounds great as you talk to the facility tour director…who wouldn’t want to move their loved one to such a great place?
After working in those places for years, I saw this going on: help that comes hours late to administer the medications, help that gives them over-dosage of pain medications or behavior medications to make it easier on them, patients so drugged they fall and or can’t function. My friend’s mom when into a nursing home to recover from a broken hip. She was doing great at the hospital right after surgery. At the nursing home, they delivered her medications two hours after they should have been given and ignored her pretty much. She died within two weeks in that nursing home. They ignored an infection from the surgery. My friend forced them to send her to ER. She died from the infection. It had taken over her frail body.
My advice is to keep your loved ones at home until the end unless you can’t manage them at home. Use a locked medication box that will only dispense their medication at a certain time of day. They run about 100 bucks or so. If possible, hire help to allow them to stay at home. If not, then read the suggestions below on what you can do to keep the nursing home in line.
Facilities charge a medication dispensing fee depending on how many prescriptions your loved one is on. This is an extra charge over the room fee. It can run anywhere from $200 to $600 per month. They will list a level of care fee then hike on the medication dispensing fee. They may not allow your loved one to take their own medications, even if they are capable of doing so.
What you can do as family for your loved ones:
Visit your loved one often unexpectedly and during the week days and at meals. Observe how your loved one is being treated. Are they wearing clean clothes? Has their bed sheets and diaper been changed. Do they smell? Does the room smell? Can they eat properly and if not are they being assisted properly to eat? Use your eyes, your ears, your senses to observe everything going on. See if the medications are brought on time? Ask them questions. Don’t be afraid to confront them if you see violations. Ask why they are doing certain things? If it doesn’t seem right, question it!
- Demand to know what medications they are giving your loved one and the dose.
- If you see symptoms that you feel are due to drugs, demand the doctor reduce the dosage. You need to right on top of them all the time in nursing homes.
- Do not blindly trust the personnel or doctors prescribing those medications.
- Read up on the medications, all of them to find possible interactions and problems.
- You need to be proactive over your loved ones care.
- When your loved one is transferred to the hospital or to the nursing home, make sure that the medical data and prescriptions transferred are correct and up to date.
Kate Freer, herbalist, researcher, writer, and professional caregiver.