For caregivers serving those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, the biggest challenge is often coping with other behaviors common in dementia. Antipsychotic drugs to treat these symptoms has become increasingly common with approximately 1 in 3 dementia patients in nursing homes being prescribed them. Outside of nursing homes, 1 in 7 dementia patients are prescribed these drugs – all despite a warning from the Food and Drug Administration saying that antipsychotics increase the risk of death for people with dementia.
According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, antipsychotics are much less effective than non-drug treatments in controlling the symptoms of dementia. Researchers say the treatments that show the best results were ones that trained caregivers on how to communicate calmly and clearly, and those that introduced hobbies and other activities to the patient. Researchers believe caregiver interventions work because they train caregivers to look for the triggers of the symptoms. When a caregiver sees the triggers of the symptoms, they train patients on how to manage them.
Healthcare providers typically use antipsychotics because they have not been trained to use non-drug approaches and when they do know how to use them, they are rarely reimbursed for doing so by Medicare or private insurance.
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