Wednesday, June 25, 2008


The title of Laurie Tarkan's worthwhile June 24, 2008 New York Times article "Doctors Say Medication Is Overused in Dementia," might lead you to think it's fairly narrow in focus (on the overprescription of anti-psychotic drugs), but the report actually surveys a number of ways that "Our health care system isn’t set up to address the mental, emotional and behavioral problems of the elderly," to use the words of Dr. Gary S. Moak, president of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP).

It takes a village to raise a child, and it also takes a village to care for most people with dementia. A patient and compassionate village at that. And a "village" composed of family members and pills and other medications can only do so much. This should be obvious to anyone experienced in such ongoing care, and it should be understood by many who hear about it second-hand. Yet one still sees unsupervised dementia patients disrupting hospital wings, one still sees how much red tape and paperwork are involved in getting care for the patients (who can't possibly negotiate those bureaucratic hurdles on their own), and one also sees how much red tape and paperwork must be negotiated to protect dementia patients from losing their estates when they are most vulnerable.

A responsible society would address these issues and improve the system immediately. Come to think of it, so would a selfish society. But a stupid society, or a willfully ignorant society, would probably just ignore the problems and let the situation get worse and worse while the number of dementia patients continues to increase. And that seems to be the case at present—despite the many warning signs.

No comments: