Psychotropic and anti-dementia treatment in elderly persons with clinical signs of dementia with Lewy bodies: a cross-sectional study in 40 nursing homes in Sweden

Iris Zahirovic, Gustav Torisson, Carina Wattmo, Elisabet Londos
BMC Geriatrics 2018 February 17, 18 (1): 50

BACKGROUND: Elderly persons with a dementia diagnosis often suffer from different neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) such as delusions, hallucinations, depression, anxiety, irritability and agitation. Currently, the medical treatment for NPS consists mostly of psychotropic medication such as hypnotics/sedatives, anxiolytics and antipsychotics. In elderly persons with dementia, usage of antipsychotics is less appropriate because of the risk of side effects such as parkinsonism, rapid cognitive decline, cerebrovascular events and finally mortality. Furthermore, elderly persons with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) are often hypersensitive to antipsychotics with numerous serious adverse events such as somnolence, sedation, extra-pyramidal symptoms, delirium and increased mortality. The aim of this study was to investigate the usage of psychotropics with a focus on antipsychotics and anti-dementia medication (according to the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification System) in elderly persons with clinical signs of DLB living in dementia nursing homes (NHs) in Sweden.

METHODS: Between 2012 and 2013, we applied a specially designed questionnaire that covered the clinical DLB features according to the consensus criteria of DLB. We also collected computerized medical lists from the Swedish National Medication Dispensing System from the same period. All dementia NHs (n = 40) in Malmö, the third largest city in Sweden, were covered. Of 650 eligible residents, 610 (94%) were included with 576 medical lists. The mean age was 86 years and 76% were women.

RESULTS: Treatment with antipsychotics was seen in 22% of residents, hypnotics/sedatives in 41%, antidepressants in 50% and anxiolytics in 58%. We also found an increasing usage of antipsychotics from 25% to 43% in residents with the increasing number of DLB features. Anti-dementia medications were found in 45% of the elderly with a dementia diagnosis. However, residents with two or more DLB features had less anti-dementia medication (37%) than the rest of the dementia-diagnosed NH residents (62-69%).

CONCLUSIONS: Residents with 2-4 DLB clinical features in Swedish NHs receive an unfavourable medical treatment with high antipsychotic usage and insufficient anti-dementia medication. These findings show the importance of identifying elderly persons with DLB features more effectively and improving the collaboration with nursing care to provide better medical prescription.


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