AFA stands up against inappropriate antipsychotic drug use for people with Alzheimer’s


    We’ve addressed the inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs for dementia patients a number of times on these pages. In one article, I wrote about my dad’s terrifying experience after he was given one of those antipsychotic drugs after failed brain surgery and my fight to get him off the drug.


    Though I’ve long known that most Alzheimer’s organizations are fighting against the inappropriate use of antipsychotics to restrain or control people with dementia, I was especially heartened to receive a newsletter from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) highlighting their fight to stop this abuse.

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    According to the newsletter, the AFA recently expressed concerns about inappropriate antipsychotic medication use for people with dementia to the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging.

    With more knowledge about Alzheimer’s behaviors has come recognition that hands-on strategies to cope with difficult behavioral issues presented by people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia works well. Medicating them into oblivion isn’t necessary or humane.


    Eric J. Hall, AFA's president and CEO told the committee that,” AFA is committed to ensuring that people with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias are not treated with inappropriate or harmful medications."  


    Hall, realistically understanding that there are times when no other choice will work continued with the statement that, "…AFA recognizes a limited role for the appropriate use of antipsychotics in the treatment of nursing home residents with Alzheimer's disease… AFA noted there are some instances where behavioral and psychotic symptoms, such as violence, pose a greater risk to the resident, staff and family than the use of the medication…It also recognizes that curbing usage could lead nursing homes to restrict or deny admission if the facility perceives behavioral difficulties and lacks effective safety tools.” 


    Even though many nursing homes are now following standards that recognize hands-on human care is generally the most effective means of helping confused and agitated elders with Alzheimer’s, there is still a lot of work to be done. That is evident when we hear from family members who have elders with dementia. They often feel angry and helpless in the face of the overmedication of their elders. 


    Thus, AFA’s stance before the Senate Special Committee on Aging is heartening to those of us who frequently feel that no one is listening to us:


    “AFA's recommendations include funding for nursing homes for staff training and to ensure proper staffing levels; promotion of early detection of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias through memory screenings, since early recognition and appropriate treatment seem to be associated with a decrease in the development of problematic behaviors that could lead to antipsychotic treatment; and enforcement of requirements by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that a nursing home facility avoid use of antipsychotics in most circumstances.” 


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    Thank you, AFA, for taking a strong stand to help eliminate the abuse of an occasionally useful type of drug that should only be used in extreme circumstances. 


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Published On: January 12, 2012