Alzheimer’s disease is often accompanied by serious problems such as psychosis, delusions, mania, extreme irritability and aggressiveness, just to name a few. The first step in dealing with these is to get a thorough medical evaluation to be sure that other health issues are not causing or contributing to the problem. The next course of action is usually trying non-pharmacological approaches to the problem.
But if those approaches don’t work, you may want to consult your loved one’s physician about trying an antipsychotic medication. Despite their potential effectiveness, though, these drugs can have very serious side effects. Especially an increased risk of mortality in older adults with dementia.
But the Alzheimer’s Association states that their use may be appropriate for individuals with severe symptoms or who have the potential to harm themselves or others. The Association also says that in some cases the risks of the symptoms may be worse than those of the medication.
If used, antipsychotics should be prescribed in the lowest dose possible for the shortest period of time. This is the key advice that can prevent the horrors that are experienced by some Alzheimer’s patients taking antipsychotics.
When Ed was put on both an antidepressant and an antipsychotic he changed from being depressed, agitated, and having hallucinations and delusions to being one of the most contented, calm and lovable people you’d ever want to meet.
For patients with the most severe symptoms it basically comes down to this: Would you rather have your loved one continue living with agitation, psychosis, mania or other extreme conditions or would you rather try to afford your loved one a better quality of life despite the risk that their life may be shortened?
A daunting decision.
I will be publishing a more detailed post on this topic on the Huffington Post in the near future. You can go there to check it out.