Elderly at Risk

The wholesale drugging of the elderly in both private and public nursing homes has reached epidemic levels, with the use of anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety drugs (tranquilizers) and antidepressants.

elderly_0Patients are being harmed  and their lives cut short as a direct result.  These drugs are highly dangerous when prescribed to anyone, but when prescribed to the elderly the risks for diabetes, stroke and sudden death are greatly increased.

So much so, that in 2010, Professor Sube Banerjee was asked by the government to undertake an independent clinical review of the use of anti-psychotic drugs used on the 180,000 elderly dementia patients.  He revealed a staggering 1800 deaths each year as a direct result of their anti-psychotic medication and a further 1,620 suffered cerebrovascular [brain damage related to blood vessels supplying the brain] adverse events, around half of which, he claimed, may be severe.

In reviewing the evidence, Professor Banerjee said, “these drugs appear to have only a limited positive effect in treating these symptoms but can cause significant harm to people with dementia”. As a result, Paul  Burstow, MP, on behalf of the Conservative Party announced he would reduce the number of drugs being given to the elderly by 2/3rds by November 2011.

Assualt on the elderly with Electro Shock Treatment

In today’s high-pressure world, tradition is too often replaced by more “modern” means of dealing with the demands of life. For example, in times past, the task of caring for our parents and grandparents was usually left to the community, church or family, but today it routinely falls to organizations such as nursing homes or residential care homes. We trust that professionally trained staff will care for our elderly parents or relatives as we would.

However, the reality of nursingor residential care homes is often far from the  image portrayed in their expensive, coloured glossy brochures with the elderly living in an idyllic environment.

ect2More often than not, the institutionalised elderly of today appear submissive, quiet, somehow vacant, a sort of lifelessness about them, perhaps blankly staring or deeply introspective and withdrawn.

If not by drugs, these conditions can also be brought on by the use of electroconvulsive or shock treatment (ECT), which is commonly in use with the over 65 year-olds, or simply the threat of painful and demeaning restraints.

Rather than this being the failure of nursing staff and care home staff generally, this is the legacy of the widespread introduction of psychiatric treatment into the care of the elderly over the last few decades.

Consider the following facts about the “treatments” they receive:

  • Tranquilizers, also known as benzodiazepines, can be addictive after 14 days of use.
  • British coroners’ reports showed benzodiazepines as more frequently contributing to unnatural death each year than cocaine, heroin, Ecstasy and all other illegal drugs.
  • Today’s antidepressants, the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), can cause suicidal thoughts and behaviour.  Seroxat (paroxetine), for example, is seven times more likely to induce suicide in people taking it than those taking a placebo (sugar pill), according to a Norwegian study.
  • Antipsychotic drugs such as Olanzepine, Risperdal and Seroquel place the elderly at increased risk of strokes and death and have warnings issued by drug regulators to emphasise the risk.
  • In the United States, 65-year-olds receive 360 percent more shock treatment than 64-year-olds because at age 65 government insurance coverage for shock typically takes effect.
  • In the UK, during the first three month of 2002, according to a Royal College of Psychiatrist’s report, a total of 2,300 electro shock sessions were administered. There were 700 male patients compared with 1,600 female patients and 47% of female patients and 45% of male patients receiving ECT were aged 65 and over.

Medical literature clearly cautions against prescribing tranquilisers to the elderly because of the numerous dangerous side effects. Studies show ECT shortens the lives of elderly people significantly. Specific figures are not kept as the causes of death are usually listed as heart attacks, pneumonia or other conditions.

The influence of Psychiatry in the Care of the Elderly

The abuse is the result of psychiatry manoeuvring itself into an authoritative position over the care of the elderly. From there, psychiatry has broadly perpetrated the tragic but lucrative hoax that aging is a mental disorder requiring extensive and expensive psychiatric services.

The end result is that, rather than being cherished and respected, too often our senior citizens suffer the extreme indignity of having their power of mind heartlessly nullified by psychiatric treatments or their lives simply brought to a tragic and premature end.

It is for this reason CCHR advocates for more humane non-drug approaches for elderly patients in care.  There are some, albeit, very few, nursing and care homes that do advocate non-drug solutions for the elderly, and their homes are often a hive of activity with happy and contented residents or patients.

When choosing a nursing or residential care home, CCHR recommends that an Advance Directive be signed by the elderly person, clearly stating they do not wish for psychiatric interventions or treatments. Family members should take particular care to ensure that staff at the home is willing to work with the family to provide non-psychiatric drug solutions to their loved ones.