Apr 142012

“No, no! Oh God, no! Daddy, help!” As Mrs. James continued to yell, a nurse hurried to try to calm her but stopping as Mrs. James began swinging. She was fighting off the Germans again, as she relived being imprisoned by them during World War II. The prison was bombed by the allies the same night she was imprisoned and she was able to escape. Her’s was a fascinating and terrifying story of courage when she was lucid and could tell it. Knowing her story made it all the more heartbreaking to watch each time she slipped into the past, reliving the nightmares of her youth, fighting for her life, again, in an endless loop. It was happening more often as were her attacks on the staff and she had already hurt two employees and come close to hurting another resident.

Alzheimer’s and dementia are two of the most emotionally devastating diagnosis’s that your parent’s can receive. Not only do they loose their health, they loose themselves and their life. In some instances, their entire personality may change, not always for the better. The world becomes a confusing place, hard to understand and function in.

Your feelings of helplessness and frustration can be overwhelming as you become a stranger to a person who has changed so much you no longer feel as connected to them. The ugly truth is, you may have already lost your parent except in body. Sure, they still look like mom or dad, but the essence of who they are is hidden, occasionally peaking out to say hello, but that is happening less and less. It is usually heartbreaking. (I had one instance where the daughter told me her dad had always been mean and he was now a pleasure to be around).
Some however, become angry or violent. They can longer express their needs appropriately, their behavior may seem bizarre at times. They wander around, turning on the stove and walking off, “escaping” the house, yelling for no apparent reason, hiding things, the list goes on. People with Alzheimer’s and dementia’s can become violent, attacking their caregiver’s. Is it any wonder that exhausted families turn to nursing homes?

There is another truth you must also face: if your parent’s behavior becomes too much of a risk to themselves, caregiver’s, other resident’s or the facility there is a good chance they will refuse to accept caring for your parent. Many Alzheimer’s patients end up in psychiatric hospitals for this reason. Even nursing homes with lockdown wards are limited in what they can handle. (There was a sad incident locally when a resident with Alzheimer’s picked up a piece of furniture and beat his roommate to death before anyone could stop him).

What about medications? Dr. Daniel Carlat is a psychiatrist who points out that in large placebo-controlled trials, antipsychotic medications are the most effective treatment for the agitation that often goes with dementia. He also makes another point: there is not a single medication that is FDA-approved for the treatment of dementia.
Those same antipsychotic medication’s contain a black box warning about use with the elderly. There are more studies being done but it is very controversial.

In tomorrow’s blog we will look at two viewpoints and I’ll give you a few things to think about before making a decision.


  16 Responses to “The Elderly and Antipsychotics, Part I”

  1. Great info – not an easy time for anyone!
    Looking forward to tomorrow!
    Are You prepared for Caregiving?

  2. Great article …. I completely emphasize.


  3. My grandma had Alzheimers and I remember my dad getting calls from the adult home that she was being mean and nasty to the other people there. I thought it was just her but now I realize it is just part of the disease. Thank you for your information.

    Yours In Health!

    Dr. Wendy

  4. I’ve been reading about quite a few promising holistic/natural treatments for Alzeimer’s lately. It’s such a devastating disease. I can’t even imagine having to deal with it in someone I love. I’m hopeful that we can have more real answers soon. Thanks for the post.

    Cherie Miranda
    Meditation as a Treatment for Mental Illness

  5. As the boomers age there will be more people in the future ending up in homes and this will become more of an issue in the future.
    Scott Sylvan Bell
    Body language of fighting
    Now go implement!

  6. Are there any ways to keep from being diagnosed with a mental illness? Like playing chess or checkers, keeping your brain exercised of course. Are there any other effective ways to prevent things before they happen?

    Mark Hogan

    • Mental illness is the big ugly monster that no one in our country wants to really deal with isn’t it? As a general rule, it is not usually preventable in that heredity and biology may be contributing factors. Psychological trauma and environmental stressors also play a role.

      Dementia and Alzheimer’s are not usually classified as mental health issues, but rather a progressive illness. With dementia in particular, there is a chance of either preventing or slowing the progression, through exercise, dietary changes and yes, using your mind such as playing games.

      I will delve into this a bit more in a future article. Thanks for the question.

  7. I look forward to you next post as I am not a big fan of pharmaceuticals ( coming from a pharmacy background ), doctors’ misuse of the drugs – or lack of understanding due to drug reps “marketing” the drugs only in a positive light, nor the FDA with their concern over how much money versus how much benefit.

    Stay Amazing, Neil

  8. Alzheimer’s and dementia seem to be almost harder on the family than the one going through it?

  9. I think that having one of this mental illness is one of the worst things that can happen to a human.
    Do you think there will be new discoveries in the coming years that can help reverse the symptons?

    Eliminar la Ansiedad

  10. My father hasn’t been diagnosed. But I know he is at the beginning stages of Alz. I have done a few things I could, Purchased and Earth Pulse, and bought him a 5 gallon bucket of Coconut oil, and a few other things like Krill oil etc.

    It is definitely a strange time. It is confusing because they aren’t a statistic or someone elses parent… They are yours… and that makes it very strange. I didn’t even know what I was witnessing until I got back hime and them it clicked.

    Good p[ost

    Bandzoogle Is Awesome

  11. Suzanne,
    Are there studies about the inheritance factor in mental diseases? Is there a preventive therapy for patients who are in danger of Alzheimer’s and dementia? May be some kind of vigorous mental exercises, like solving math problems or playing brain games?

  12. I recently contacted an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. He was so happy to hear from me. He said that he was feeling well but having a lot of trouble remembering things these days. He asked how the kids were and I went into great detail telling him what they were up to and how they were doing in school etc. About 5 minutes later, he asked about them again as though he had never asked. I told him again how they were and started to go into detail assuming that would jog his memory, but his responses showed he didn’t remember that I had just told him at all. A few minutes later he asked again. This time I just said they were doing well. When I got off the phone I broke down and cried. I’m sure he has Alzheimers. I think this is the beginning of the end. I’m crushed.

    Lisa McLellan
    Nanny Services

    • Lisa it is sad to this happening to anyone but especially someone you care about. I hope he has gone to a doctor for a checkup. Sometimes there is something causing the memory problems that are treatable.

  13. A lot of great info you’re providing here.


    Thorne Smith Books

  14. Such great insight here, especially for those who are or soon will be facing such a situation. I am especially interested as my own mother is 91 this year.

    Thank you.

    Be Well.


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