Untreated Pain a Likely Source of Dementia-Associated Agitation

By Anthony Chicotel, CANHR Staff Attorney

Americans who decry the misuse of psychotropic drugs in long-term care facilities should be encouraged by the strides being made in England to promote non-pharmacological alternatives for “treating” dementia.  The British Medical Journal recently released a research study demonstrating that behavioral disturbances associated with dementia can be better treated with pain relief medications than with psychotropic drugs.  Regular administration of simple analgesics was found to reduce agitation in patients with moderate to severe dementia “comparing well” to the currently best available drug therapy.  The study’s authors found that assessing and treating pain is an integral part of effective dementia treatment.  The author’s findings are consistent with CANHR’s recommendation that pain be carefully assessed and ruled out as a cause of perceived disruptive behaviors for people with dementia, before psychotropic drugs are considered.

 

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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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