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Procedures the Elderly Should Avoid

Medical Precautions for Dementia Patients

Elderly woman with doctor. 

When you go to the hospital, the doctors, nurses, and other medical staff will do everything they can to save your life. This may include more aggressive forms of treatment that can be tough on your body in the short term even if they have good results in the long term.

However, research is finding that this is not always the case and what's good for a younger population of patients is not always what's good for the elderly. A younger body may have an easier time bouncing back from aggressive methods of care.
But for someone who is elderly, has dementia, is chronically sick or frail, the same treatments can be debilitating and can sometimes cause serious health problems that profoundly affect quality of life.

Elderly Medical Procedures and Precautions

Feeding tubes for dementia patients.

Feeding tubes are often given to people who are incapacitated, in comas, or cannot swallow because of medical conditions. The American Geriatrics Society and the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine both agree, however, that feeding tubes should be avoided for dementia patients.

The patients can become agitated and try to remove the tubes; some patients have to be forcibly restrained. It is usually better to hand-feed dementia patients than give them a feeding tube.

Antipsychotic medications for dementia patients.

ome patients with dementia can exhibit aggressive behaviors. When they do, they sometimes get prescribed anti-psychotics powerful drugs such as Zyprexa and Risperdal. These put patients in danger of stroke and heart attack, and should not be prescribed except as a last resort as they often have few benefits.

Sleeping pills.

For those who have insomnia or nighttime agitation not uncommon with dementia patients sleeping pills might seem like an easy fix. However, the chemicals that put you to sleep at night can also cause drowsiness during the day, and can put increase the risk of falls, driving accidents, and other problems elderly patients are often already prone to.

Over-prescribing antibiotics.

Because they tend to spend more time in hospitals and can have less robust immune systems than younger patients, the elderly are often more at risk for severe bacterial infections. Hospitals are where it's most likely an elderly patient will pick up an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria. Too many antibiotics can make older patients especially vulnerable to more severe infections down the road.

This general advice is not meant to be taken as a doctor's advice; just to give you some idea of the added risks of some treatments for elderly patients. Talk to your doctor (or your loved one's doctor) about specific treatments and medications that apply to your situation.

Disclaimer: We are not doctors. You should always talk to your doctor about various treatments you're considering or options for resuscitation that would be right for you.

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