Medication use in nursing home residents with advanced dementia

David M Blass, Betty S Black, Hilary Phillips, Thomas Finucane, Alva Baker, David Loreck, Peter V Rabins
International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 2008, 23 (5): 490-6

OBJECTIVE: To describe medication usage in nursing home residents with advanced dementia, to identify how this usage changed as patients advanced towards death, and to identify correlates of increased medication usage.

METHODS: Prospective cohort study (CareAD) during which data on medication prescription were extracted from medical records at regular intervals using standardized extraction procedures.

RESULTS: Patients (n=125) were prescribed a mean of 14.6 medications during the 6 months prior to study enrollment. In a subgroup of patients who died during the study (n=88), as the time of death approached, the total number of medications prescribed did not vary but the types of medications prescribed did change, with an increase in palliative medications such as opiate analgesics and a decrease in other medication classes such as antibiotics, anti-dementia agents, cardiovascular agents, and psychotropic agents, among others. In linear regression analyses, total medication prescription at study entry was associated with study site, antibiotic treatment, presence of cardiovascular disease, and treatment of gastrointestinal or dermatological conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: Nursing home residents with advanced dementia are prescribed a large number of medications from numerous medication classes and prescribing patterns change over time. Further study is needed to determine the ideal approach to treating chronic medical problems at the end of life in this patient population.

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