Haldol as a medication for Alzheimer’s has me worried. Is it safe for my mother?

One of the first psychotropic drugs introduced to the market was Haldol. Its goal was to subdue young and healthy — but violent — psychiatric patients. It is a successful drug when used for the appropriate purpose and at the appropriate levels. 

But when used on elderly or Alzheimer’s patients, many questions seem to arise. Can it create confusion? Can something else be given for agitation with better results and fewer side effects? How long does it take for Haldol to leave the system once it is subbed out? And the list goes on. 

Medications affect people differently. What works for one individual might not for another. To some degree, prescribers will tell you, it becomes a guessing game. All medications have side effects. Some people will feel them differently, or not at all. There might be, for example, a medication to treat anxiety that … creates anxiety. This type of reaction may be fairly common among older individuals.

If taken for a long time, Haldol (Haloperidol) can create many side effects. (Typically, it is prescribed for people who hallucinate and/or act aggressively.) Ask your doctor to try other prescriptions to see if they work reasonably well as an alternative.

 

Keep in mind that some individuals tolerate Haldol well. Regardless, it builds up in the body, so complete removal from body systems might take a few weeks, depending on how long a person was already taking it.

 

To allay your concerns, the best strategy is to talk with your mother’s doctor. Tell him what your observations are and ask what the options are. There are numerous medications out there created to treat these same conditions.

 

As always, if you aren’t satisfied with the response you get from one physician, consult another. Geriatric psychologists and neurologists are usually on top of the latest and most effective medications available. As an aside, older patients are usually started at the lowest doses possible and then inched up as needed.

 

Another route you can take is to have your mother admitted to a gero-psychiatric unit. These are specialized places for observation of behavior and monitoring or adjusting medications specifically for elderly patients. Doctors get a much more complete picture than usual thanks to 24-hour observation and monitoring over several days.

 

Dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s is a daunting task. There’s no need to tackle it alone, however. An excellent resource is “The Indispensable Alzheimer’s Resource Kit.” It can be downloaded at no cost by clicking here.