Dementia diagnosis linked to unnecessary medication use

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A new study has found that unnecessary use of medication increases in newly diagnosed dementia cases.

Painkillers, acid reflux medicine, sleeping pills and anti-depression drugs are the main offenders.

There are around 50 million people living with dementia around the world, 425,000 of whom live in Australia. It is the second leading cause of death in Australia and recent estimates show that dementia costs the healthcare system around $15 billion a year.

The longitudinal study of 2500 people led by the University of Sydney in collaboration with Yale University and the University of Kentucky was published in Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences last week.

“Our study found that following a diagnosis of dementia in older people, medication use increased by 11 per cent in a year and the use of potentially inappropriate medications increased by 17 per cent,” said lead author Dr Danijela Gnjidic.

“These medications are typically recommended for short-term use but are commonly used long term by people with dementia,” she said.

“A number of reasons may account for this, including inadequate guidelines, lack of time during physician-patient encounters, diminished decision-making capacity, difficulties with comprehension and communication, and difficulties in establishing goals of care.

“These findings are of major concern and highlight the importance of weighing up the harms and benefits of taking potentially unnecessary medications as they may lead to increased risk of side effects such as sedation or drowsiness, and adverse drug events such as falls, fractures and hospitalisation.

“Further efforts are clearly needed to support better recognition of potentially inappropriate medications to minimise possible harms and [this] warrants interventions to minimise such prescribing.

“For Australians living with dementia and their caregivers (who commonly are responsible for managing medications for people with dementia), the key is to communicate closely with general practitioners, pharmacists and other health professionals to make informed decisions and to practise good medicine management techniques to minimise the risk of side effects.

“De-prescribing unnecessary medications may improve an individual’s quality of life and can reduce unnecessary healthcare costs.”

Read more at Science Daily

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 8
  1. 0

    Too many variables for this article to have credence.
    Sounds more like the government wanting to cut the cost of dementia patients. How about investing in a method to delay the onset rather than letting those who have it suffer by under medicating.

    • 0

      It would be more use if the article mentioned whether it was talking about senile dementia or early onset dementia which are vastly different things.

  2. 0

    Mixing medications probably causes more negative effects than dementia, many that are not shown on the list of side effects.

    People facing old age have a whole lot of things going wrong with them and there is probably a medication for everything. These may or may not work 100%.

    Somewhere there are choices that have to be made about what things to treat by medication, what things to let go and what things to treat with diet and exercise.

  3. 0

    Drs have not a clue as to the meds they prescribe and what is incompatible, always check yourself on the internet AND with a chemist BEFORE you take a new medication, because Drs hand out Meds willy nilly and some are deadly together

  4. 0

    It is well known that medication is over prescribed in all areas, not just dementia. There is an abundance of information about the effect of therapy’s such as dance and music on the effects of dementia. Even walking three times a week can increase the size of your hypo campus and lessen the likelihood of developing a dementia. We offer the Come Dance with Me Program which has proven benefits to people with a dementia. Just remember that Dementia is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. Senile dementia is a layman’s term and is the old word for this issue. If people can’t keep up with the terminology and what each different type does to the person then how can they possible understand the effects of medication?

    • 0

      According to the site
      We are born with a 100 billion neurons and one of those is capable of making 10,000 connections. Every one of us continues to produce new brain cells until the day we die.
      Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to constantly lay down new pathways for neural communication and to rearrange existing ones throughout life.
      Since the 1960’s, there has been a growing body of evidence that demonstrates new nerve cells are born in particular regions of the brain throughout your life.
      This natural birth of new cells in your brain is called neurogenesis.
      Physical exercise, as little as three brisk walks a week, increases the size of the hippocampus, a key brain region important for learning and memory.
      Aerobic exercise produces neurotransmitters:
      • Serotonin, a natural feel good substance, with no side effects.
      • Dopamine for learning, reward and motivation.
      • Norepinephrine, increases alertness, concentration and energy.
      In many ways the brain benefits from the same things we know are good for the body. It is just not as visible when your brain gets flabby!
      Exercise reduces flab, it also reduces your risk of dementia, the best way to do it is through exercise and the best exercise is dance.
      After studying 469 individuals, participating in 19 activities, for 5 years, Professor Joe Verghese and colleagues, concluded: dance is the only physical activity demonstrated to reduce the risk of dementia.
      There are three factors known to reduce the risk of dementia:
      • Physical activity,
      • Social engagement and
      • New Learning
      Dance has all of these and adds creativity.

    • 0

      hehe – and yet the family would think I was absolutely balmy if I started dancing around the house!
      They would definitely think I was on something.

  5. 0

    My wife is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the drugs/patches she was prescribed with by a specialist gave her all sorts of grief.
    In the end she just said NO and her doctor monitored her and she is much brighter and with no side effects from drugs that did nothing.
    She still enjoys her red wine of an evening too.



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