Study: OTC pain medication helps elderly with dementia

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Giving the common over-the-counter painkiller acetaminophen to elderly people suffering from dementia may actually help them become more active and socially engaged, a new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society suggests.

For the study, researchers gave acetaminophen to a small group of nursing home patients who had moderate to severe dementia. They found the medication helped changed some of the patients' behaviors.

For example, some residents with dementia spent less time in their rooms and more time watching television, listening to music, reading or performing "work-like" activities when given the pain medication.

While chronic pain is common among the elderly, the diagnoses and treatment of chronic pain in those with Alzheimer's disease and other forms is often difficult because they may be unable to express what they are feeling, say study authors, who were led by Dr. John T. Chibnall of the Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri.