« I Love Caribou! | Main | Girl featured in Clinton ad is not a fan »

Dementia. Solution: Drugs rather than help

The Star Tribune tells the story of Meta Miller, a hospice and nursing home patient with dementia who was given antipsychotic drugs to deal with her illness, which made her to screaming and her personality change worse.

To cope, with the hysterics patients with dementia may have, thousands of nursing homes nationwide are doing the same thing Miller's care did: using powerful antipsychotic drugs to quiet them, a step that at times is easier than taking staff time to fix the problem and Medicaid officials are alrmed by the practice.

Medicaid, which regulates and pays for most nursing home care, has ordered Minnesota nursing homes to crack down on the issue. In 2007 38 percent of the state's 398 nursing homes were using dangerous antipsychotic drugs inappropriately, a rate 27 percent higher than in 2006. said the Star Tribune.

Often the drugs that have become the No. 1 paid for drug by Medicaid perscribed to about 30 percent of all nursing home patients, is perscribed whether the patient is psychotic or not the paper said.

In Minnesota the paper reported the drugs are given routinely to 32 percent of state nursing home residents with behavior problems, such as dementia, but up to 15 percent of residents who don't have that daignosis are treated as well, the state Department of Health reported.

The behavior of patients with dementia can be the most difficult situations for both nursing homes and families to deal with, and after aid has been attacked by a patient it is easy to understand why they might want them drugged, but Dr. Robert Sonntag, an aging specialist with HealthPartners' division of geriatric services said sometimes the drug treatments don't help and makes the patients worse.

A rush to perscribe drugs is not the answer, usually the person is simply trying to communicate something and when it is figured out what you can deal with the real problem, said John Brose, a Minneapolis psychologist who consults at more than 100 nursing homes.

To read Miller's story and more facts about the treatment of patients with dementia click here to see the Star Tribune's article "People with dementia getting drugged rather than helped."