One of the more disturbing trends in medicine in recent years has been the rush to get dementia patients on antipsychotic drugs.
It's stunning, because these drugs do nothing for the condition and come with tremendous risk and awful side effects.
A study published in July in the Archives of Internal Medicine warns that antipsychotic meds dramatically increase the risk of hospitalization for hyperglycemia when taken by older diabetics.
I've already written about the dangers of these meds. They're not just bad for older diabetics, they're bad for everyone, and are taken by far too many people.
When they do randomized trials for these drugs on dementia patients, a shockingly high number of those in the placebo groups -- anywhere between 30 percent and 60 percent -- improve.
That tells me pretty clearly that the patients are responding to something other than the drug -- in this case, it's most likely the attention from being part of a clinical trial. After all, dementia patients generally do respond well to personal attention -- the problem has been that many of them just don't get it.
This is true whether they are diabetics or not. And as this latest research shows, diabetics who do take them risk a trip to the emergency room. The study's authors even recommend that older diabetics avoid these drugs entirely.
But I think everyone should keep away from them.
These meds have also been shown to increase the risk of sudden cardiac death, according to a study presented earlier this year at the annual meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society. They've also been linked to death in some dementia patients, according to FDA warnings issued in 2005 and 2008.
Not only that, but meds in general -- and these meds in particular -- have been known to turn dementia patients into zombies. I've known of patients who seem to be lost in a haze of Alzheimer's, when in fact they were lost in a haze of drugs, and antipsychotics were often at the heart of it.
Once they were taken off these powerful meds, they became far more lucid and much more like their old selves. The difference can be like night and day.
Unfortunately, too many dementia patients live in short-staffed nursing homes where the answer to every problem is another pill -- not the time and attention they need.
There are completely natural and drug-free ways to delay the onset of dementia and slow its progress once it begins, and most of them involve keeping yourself intellectually stimulated. Join a club, socialize, spend time around your children and grandchildren and enjoy some puzzles and books.
The other key is in your overall approach to aging. As we grow older, the needs of our bodies change. You may need different nutrients and supplements, as well as a regimen of bioidentical hormones.
Take care of yourself and your body, and you'll be better prepared to meet the challenges of aging.