Amazing Grace: Enjoying Alzheimer's !

the mission: to give sufferers and carers an alternative to drugs

┬áIt is becoming increasingly obvious that drugs, and in particular Neuroleptic mind altering drugs, are not useful in most cases of dementia based illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. Recent research by Kings College suggests that these drugs do not work and that those given prescribed mood altering drugs are twice as likely to die earlier.

So where does that leave both Alzheimer’s sufferers and their carers? What say do they have their treatment? All too often treatment is taken out of their hands and patients are automatically given (even against their wishes) neuroleptic drugs, sedation, muscle relaxants and laxatives, prescribed in such high doses that patients become catatonic. They can be left in this virtually unconscious state needing little care until it is their turn to be fed (if they can be woken up), washed and put to bed.

But is this right? Shouldn’t physicians, care homes and institutions be thinking in terms of a better quality of life for their patients than merely keeping them unresponsive, and controllable? Some do, but all too often drugs are the easiest option. Whilst conditions in no way compare with those of some Rumanian orphanages of the last century where babies and toddlers were left to exist in a deplorable state in their cots because of lack of funds, staff, facilities and political neglect, is this country so very different in its treatment of the old mentally infirm? Is it not true that mental illness is on the bottom rung of the UK health care ladder? Dementia and other mental health issues are not talked about so do not attract adequate funding for research, accommodation, care or treatment. It does not attract the media. It isn’t ‘sexy’ and it is certainly not on the political agenda. No votes there then!

Where is the quality of life for Alzheimer’s sufferers as their minds slowly die? We should be caring for them as human beings needing mental stimulation, a healthy diet full of vitamins and minerals, gentle exercise and music — basic qualities of life. Such a regime as this can, in very many cases, give patients is far better quality of life than dosing them up with sedatives, muscle relaxants and mind altering drugs the moment they show any signs of normal expression. The inclusion of significant amounts of vitamins including C, the B’s and E have a very calming effect when combined with a diet high in Omega 3, fruit and vegetables. This has been proved over and over again from research throughout the world, but we continue to ignore it, relying instead on quick fix drugs.

These neuroleptic drugs can cause brain damage and speech deterioration but they are prescribed regardless. Those taking control of treatment should be trying to find out first what helps a patient at his/ her particular stage of the disease rather then automatically prescribing drugs because ‘that is what it says on the tin’. Those in charge of EMI (Elderly Mental Infirm) units need to listen to patients and their relatives and get away from the current, but Victorian ‘Bedlam’, attitude to Alzheimer’s. There is an overwhelming need to treat patients as individuals for as long as possible before this dreadful disease finally kills so many brain cells that sufferers no longer have any control over their movements or functions.

Ray Smith April 2007
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