Changes to psychotropic medications in the six months after admission to nursing homes in Melbourne, Australia

Daniel W O'Connor, Joanne Griffith, Kate McSweeney
International Psychogeriatrics 2010, 22 (7): 1149-53

BACKGROUND: Nursing home residents are often prescribed large numbers of psychotropic medications. Previous studies suggest that antipsychotic medications are often unnecessary and can be withdrawn without ill effects. Depression, in contrast, is believed to be under-recognized and under-treated.

METHOD: A six-month audit was carried out of the antipsychotic, antidepressant, anxiolytic and hypnotic medications prescribed to 166 newly admitted residents of a convenience sample of seven nursing homes in Melbourne, Australia.

RESULTS: Over the six-month period, antidepressants were started in 6% of all cases and stopped in 2% of treated cases. Antipsychotics were added in 5% of all cases and stopped in 15% of treated cases. Residents were switched from one antidepressant to another in 5% of treated cases and from one antipsychotic to another in 4%. Benzodiazepine use was relatively modest.

CONCLUSIONS: Judging from epidemiological data, treatment revisions were almost certainly insufficient to address residents' mental health needs. We discuss ways of harnessing existing nursing and pharmacy resources to ensure better care for aged residents.

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