It's bad enough that up to a third of all dementia patients in nursing homes are given powerful antipsychotic meds despite the fact that they're not approved for dementia.
But what makes this one far worse -- what makes it a crime in my book -- is that doctors know these drugs can dramatically boost the risk of death in these patients, and they keep giving them out anyway.
Now, a new look at data on more than 75,000 nursing home patients finds that one antipsychotic drug in particular is even worse than the rest.
Researchers say Haldol -- aka haloperidol -- can more than double the risk of death in dementia patients, a risk that's even higher when you realize that's not compared to a control group of patients who were given no meds at all.
It's compared to patients given risperidone, part of a class of meds called atypical antipsychotics. And as a class, these meds are known to increase the risk of death in dementia patients by up to a staggering 70 percent.
It's like one death risk piled on top of another.
The researchers behind the new study claim the "safest" drug is Seroquel, but that doesn't make it "safe." None of these drugs are 100% "safe," and there's a reason they haven't been approved for dementia care: They don't work, either.
There's no evidence these drugs lead to better outcomes or improved symptoms, but nursing homes rely on them anyway because they're great for one thing: Silence.
These drugs are used almost as tranquilizers for dementia patients that are simply too much to handle or even patients who complain too much.
Some of the stories I've heard on how these meds are used are outrageous, and you can read more about dementia overmedication abuses here.
In reality, even the most hard-to-handle dementia patients don't need these drugs, because studies have shown there's a much simpler way to keep them calm and happy.
It starts with giving them a little more attention, care and sympathy. It might sound basic, but caregivers who pay attention can learn which objects and events trigger certain reactions in dementia patients -- and then learn to minimize them or avoid them completely.
Combine that approach with a comfortable routine and a calm environment, and you can give dementia patients everything they need without the risks of dangerous and unapproved meds.
Don't they deserve at least that much?