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letters | Sunday Forum

For some dementia patients, anti-psychotic drugs can ease suffering

BALANCE HAS been lacking in Kay Lazar’s series on overuse of anti-psychotic drugs in nursing homes, and the unintended consequence may be to deprive suffering patients of an effective treatment (“State fails to rein in sedating of seniors,” Page A1, Dec. 23).

Many dementia patients suffer from paranoia and delusions. The worst I’ve seen is a woman who believed her children had been left unattended and in danger. I guarantee this patient will be combative, angry, and irrational in her desperate attempts to reach them. Music, animal therapy, or other approaches are unlikely to help. But properly used anti-psychotic drugs can relieve her suffering.

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One explanation for off-label use of anti-psychotics may be that the FDA-approved indications aren’t inclusive enough. It can be argued that delusions and paranoia should be included because these are the very symptoms for which schizophrenic patients are treated, and schizophrenia is one of the few diagnoses for which anti-psychotics are FDA-approved.

I embrace the current movement away from knee-jerk use of anti-psychotics for dementia-related behaviors. But sometimes, an anti-psychotic is part of a successful treatment plan.

I’ve had nightmares about my children being left unattended, and was immensely relieved when I woke up. It’s not appropriate to leave a demented patient inside that nightmare when a treatment exists that may dispel it.

Irene Campbell


The writer is a gerontological nurse practitioner.

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