Drug Habit at Nursing Homes- A Report From the Wall Street Journal

MK Editor
  • From the pages of the Wall Street Journal:


    In an article titled Nursing Homes Struggle to Kick Drug Habit, writer Lucette Lagnado goes deep within Cobble Hill Health Center in Brooklyn to research the drug habits of its patients, or, rather, the drug prescribing habits of its nurses.


    According the the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 30% of nursing home residents are on antipsychotic drugs made for those with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In the case of nursing home patients, the drugs are prescribed to sedate the patients when they are "behaving badly". For anyone who has a loved one with Alzheimer's or dementia, you know that these episodes often entail screaming, paranoia, and extreme depression.

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    At Cobble Hill, the staff has decided to experiment with a different approach. Instead of giving its patients drugs when they are acting out, the nurses calm the patients down by giving them massages, or giving them tasks to accomplish. Elizabeth Johnson, ont of the dementia patients at Cobble Hill, calms down when she is asked to set the table, or tie aprons on others in the dining area.


    This is a great idea, and all, and lord knows I wish BOTH of my grandmothers weren't having drugs pushed down their throught.


    But I've seen my grandmother become hysterical and totally preoccupied when she realizes she hasn't had her medicine. If her medicine is withheld from her, she knows it and she demands it. Those orders are often hard to disobey.


    My other grandmother, when taken off of her medication (an anti-psychotic or depression medication of some sorts) had extreme withdrawals and had to be hospitalized from extreme dehydration.


    Again, I love the idea of treating dementia and Alzheimer's with activity and relaxation. I'm just not so sure that it's right for every individual.


    What does everyone else think?

Published On: December 20, 2007