Antipsychotics Make Delirium Worse

Neurology Today has an article about antipsychotics exacerbating symptoms of delirium for patients receiving hospice care.  The article is centered on a recent study in which Haldol and Risperdal were found to increase delirium, distress, and other negative health outcomes when given to hospice patients. Patients given a placebo fared much better.  A number of physicians quoted in the article found the study as confirmation of what good practioners have long known: antipsychotics are damaging and non-drugging treatments are far superior in treating a patient’s discomfort or delirium.  Unfortunately, the physicians lament, prescriptions are seen as a merciful quick fix while better non-drug options “lack an industry behind them to promote and profit from their implementation.”

The study should deal a long overdue blow to drug-friendly health care providers who have defended antipsychotic use for treating delirium and for hospice patients.  The concepts of good dementia care – accepting behavior as communication and identifying and resolving the root causes of distress rather than sedating the patient – have not gained traction in treating delirium or in hospice care.  Instead, caveman medicine to subdue patients continues to hold sway in hospitals and palliative and hospice care.   We hope this study will help person-centered care extend a little further into their realm.
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About achicotel

Anthony Chicotel is a staff attorney for CANHR. His areas of expertise include the rights of long-term care residents, nursing home litigation, health care decision-making, and conservatorships.
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