If you’re helping to care for a friend or family member with dementia, you’re faced with making tough decisions every day. It’s often stressful and exhausting. And you desperately just want to make the right choices.
But to do that, you need to be able to trust the advice you’re given. And you need to be able to believe in the treatments that are offered, knowing they’re the best and safest options available for your loved one.
This is why some recently released research is so disturbing.
A new study has revealed that we can’t trust one common piece of conventional dementia advice. Because it turns out, a mainstream medicine treatment they’ve been recommending for years to address a frequent dementia symptom isn’t helping.
Even worse, it’s doing the opposite. It’s hurting people, and, in some cases, it could have deadly consequences.
So today, let’s take a closer look at this urgent new drug warning. And more importantly, let’s explore another way to handle this common dementia complaint that doesn’t require turning to risky medication.
Dangerous drug given to dementia patients
The drug in question is a common antidepressant called mirtazapine.
And the second line in the drug’s description on Drugs.com, a website used by both consumers and healthcare professionals, already raises some alarm bells.
According to the website, “The way this medication works is still not fully understood.”
We don’t even know how the antidepressant works. Yet docs are dishing it out… experimentally… to dementia patients to deal with a heartbreaking symptom called “agitation.”
Agitation is just what it sounds like, and it’s hard to watch. Because when you see someone with dementia experiencing it, you can see the pain they’re battling too.
They’re scared. Lost. And trapped inside a fog that never lifts. They need help, but instead, they often get pushed onto meds to make it easier for those around them, but that comes with dangerous side effects.
For years, many dementia patients were given antipsychotic drugs. That is until it became clear those meds led to a higher risk of death. These days the practice is discouraged. But another dangerous one has sprouted up in its place.
Now, doctors are more likely to turn to an antidepressant such as mirtazapine in the belief it can stop the agitation without the danger. But the new double-blind study shows they couldn’t be more wrong.
Researchers put mirtazapine to the test against a placebo in more than 200 dementia patients. And their results show those docs are wrong on both counts.
After 12 weeks, there were no differences in agitation levels in either group. And by 16 weeks, the only noticeable difference was a terrifying one. Patients given the mirtazapine were dying.
Just one person in the placebo group died in that period. But seven in the group who got the meds did.
Drug-free solution effectively eases agitation
Studies consistently show there’s a far better and safer way to handle agitation. Plus, other behavioral issues that dementia patients often suffer from could respond to this same solution.
It’s not attempting to change them with a pill or drug them into a stupor. It’s simply changing their surroundings. Because an environment that’s both comforting and calming eases agitation remarkably well.
So avoid sudden or loud noises. And be sure nothing alarming or emotionally charged is on the TV.
But feel free to try comforting old shows and movies as well as familiar music.
In fact, if you know any of their old favorites, these can be especially effective.
You should also avoid spontaneous activities and outings whenever possible.
That doesn’t mean you have to sit at home and do nothing, of course. It simply means you should try to establish stability and routines with predictable and engaging activities.
In one study, daily activity such as going for a walk reduced physical aggression far better than the antipsychotic drugs. While massage and similar treatments eased verbal aggression.
Dementia eats away at your memory. So a predictable and reliable routine is often the simplest way to help prevent and ease agitation.
Plus, it’s a way to help your loved one continue to feel your love and support even in those moments when they’re unsure of who everyone is or where they are.