I think there is still a lot to be known about dementia and how much medication is too much. As is pointed out in this website article, the problem of overmedication of elderly people is increasing to almost epidemic proportions. In addition, the types of medications that may be prescribed, may increase confusion and cognitive abilities in the elderly; steroids being a good example.
” Overmedicated seniors have been mistakenly diagnosed with depression, dementia, and even Alzheimers Disease” (www.parentgiving.com). In my own experience, my elderly father moved into Assisted Living as he was beginning to have an increase in falls, was unable to cook for himself, and had trouble managing on his own. He was very unhappy with this move however, making him feel as if he had lost his independence, helpless, and powerless. He did not like having to follow the schedule of the facility, although it was a very nice and people did their best to engage him. He became increasingly frustrated, depressed, and angry. He was sent out for evaluation. At the hospital, he was so heavily medicated, that he could no longer raise his head off the pillow, feed himself, and began to slur his words. He was confused and began to hit at staff. This resulted in more medication. When he was released from the hospital, he had to move to a skilled facility, and he was barely arousable. He could no longer eat or drink. He was placed on hospice care. We were told that he had 3-4 days to live.
Of course, not being able to eat or drink, he was also unable to take any medications. In the days following, rather than passing, he awoke! He began to swallow, and eat, and drink, and speak, and even walk with assistance. The system had failed him, however. He lost a lot of strength during that time. He will never be able to walk unattended, or leave the skilled facility.
It is ironic that in looking through the evidence-based literature, there is much on this topic from Australia and the UK, but nothing from the United States of America. In America, it seems, we have the best system to take care of our elderly, and all of the publications focus on how well we are doing. But that is not really the case. One only has to look at what real people are posting about their experiences on the website, such as the articles cited above. My own experience and sharing with others tells me, also, that there is still much work to be done.