Dementia Medications for elderly: the Pros and Cons
Dementia is a symptom of many different disorders. As individuals age, the body may develop more than one medical condition. Many seniors take more than five medications a day. As a body ages, and because of the number of medications increases with the different medical diagnoses, seniors are very susceptible to adverse reactions to medications. This is due to the body’s decreased ability to process the different chemicals in those medications.
There is no cure for dementia; therefore the medications that are given treat the symptoms of the disease. Some of these medications are designed to slow down or delay the progression of the disease. Other medications treat the symptoms of depression, anxiety, aggressive behaviors and disturbed sleeping patterns. Deciding on whether to treat the symptoms of this terrible condition becomes a debate for many individuals and their family members at some point in time. It is important when deciding to treat or not to treat there are several things to take into consideration.
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The severity of the individual’s condition is the first thing to consider. Do the symptoms interfere with activities of daily living? Are the potential side effects of the medications worth the risk? How beneficial has the medication been shown to in making an improvement in functionality or ability? What are the anticipated results from this medication? How long will the medications need to be taken? What is the cost of this medication?
Asking these questions will assist you in making an educated decision with your family members; or make a mutual decision with your health care provider.
Here are a few key points about medications that may assist you in making an informed decision:
The medications that are to treat Alzheimer’s disease are not effective for everyone that they are prescribed for and many times the effectiveness is minimal. The present medications for Alzheimer’s will not completely eliminate the symptoms, nor will it prevent the disease from advancing. Some individuals may experience minor and temporary improvements in memory and physical functions. Eventually the medications that are presently on the market to treat Alzheimer’s are no longer able to stop the progression of the disease. The memory, behaviors, thinking and personality changes continue to advance into the later stages of this disabling disorder.
The Archives of Internal Medicine, May 2011 journal released the results of a study on the unrecognized and serious adverse effects of cholinesterase inhibitors in older adults with dementia. This very large study concluded that previously under recognized serious adverse effects of these medications must be weighed against the modest benefits of these medications.
The journal went on to release the information of the participants and the adverse medical effects that were experienced by individuals that took the cholinesterase inhibitors versus those that did not. The individuals that took the cholinesterase inhibitors:
Had a statically higher number of hospital visits for syncope (dizziness).
Had a statistically higher number of hospital visits for bradycardia (A slow heart beat below 60 beats per minute).
Required a significantly higher number of pacemakers inserted.
Suffered a significantly higher amount of hip fractures.
It is always important to discuss the risks and benefits with your health care provider and make an informed decision that you feel is right for you or your member.