Anyone with experience knows that dementia is a sad and scary disease. Typically physicians treat symptoms of dementia with antipsychotic medications to reduce some of the manifestations of the disease, like aggressiveness etc.
A recent study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine this month, followed older adults with dementia between 1 April 1997 and 31 March 2003 on antipsychotic medications. The study measured the connection between these medications and the risk for death at 30, 60, 120, and 180 days after the initial dispensing of the medication.
The results – “New use of atypical antipsychotics was associated with a statistically significant increase in the risk for death at 30 days compared with nonuse.”
“Excess risk seemed to persist to 180 days, but unequal rates of censoring over time may have affected these results. Relative to atypical antipsychotic use, conventional antipsychotic use was associated with a higher risk for death at all time points. Sensitivity analysis revealed that unmeasured confounders that increase the risk for death could diminish or eliminate the observed associations.”
“Conclusions: Atypical antipsychotic use is associated with an increased risk for death compared with nonuse among older adults with dementia. The risk for death may be greater with conventional antipsychotics than with atypical antipsychotics.”
So why would these medications cause or be related to death? Although I cannot access the entire article or study, from personal experience, we see these medications directly and indirectly cause falls, loss of appetite, dehyrdation and many other problems in adults in long term care settings. If your loved one is placed on such a medication – ADDITIONAL OBSERVATION is required. Too much, they may be unable to function so be sure to weigh the pros and cons before taking the medications or allowing your loved one to do so.