General Rules for Drug Use in Dementia;
from: 'The Loss of Self'
By Donna Cohen & Carl Elsdorfer

Families and caregivers should become knowledgeable enough to judge when drugs are being used appropriately and effectively for the well-being of their loved one. The following principles are important to keep in mind:

1. The doctor should start with low doses and increase gradually, if necessary.

2. A drug should be given only for the patient's benefit, not primarily for that of the family or professional staff.

3. Some drugs have side effects which can make the patient uncomfortable and aggravate the dementia.

4. Side effects themselves are not necessarily adequate reasons to stop drug treatment. Such side effects may be appropriately managed or be less serious than the initial problem being treated.

5. When the doctor starts your relative on a drug, plans should also be made for withdrawing the drug in the future.

6. A patient's physical condition affects the way a drug acts.

7. The use of over-the-counter medication or alcohol should be avoided unless discussed with the physician.

8. Outdated medicines should be thrown out of the medicine cabinet.

9. Every physician prescribing medication should know of all other medications being taken by the patient.

10. Drugs interact with each other and can cause serious problems.

11. Drugs should always be used in conjunction with psychological, social and environmental therapies as appropriate.

12. Drugs can hurt the patient if not used appropriately.

13. Drugs may not work at all.

(c) copyright 1995

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