Sedative load of medications prescribed for older people with dementia in care homes

Carole Parsons, Jane Haydock, Elspeth Mathie, Natasha Baron, Ina Machen, Elizabeth Stevenson, Sarah Amador, Claire Goodman

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ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: The objective of this study was to determine the sedative load and use of sedative and psychotropic medications among older people with dementia living in (residential) care homes. METHODS: Medication data were collected at baseline and at two further time-points for eligible residents of six care homes participating in the EVIDEM-End Of Life (EOL) study for whom medication administration records were available. Regular medications were classified using the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical classification system and individual sedative loads were calculated using a previously published model. RESULTS: At baseline, the medication administration records were reviewed for 115 residents; medication records were reviewed for 112 and 105 residents at time-points 2 and 3 respectively. Approximately one-third of residents were not taking any medications with sedative properties at each time-point, while a significant proportion of residents had a low sedative load score of 1 or 2 (54.8%, 59.0% and 57.1% at baseline and time-points 2 and 3 respectively). More than 10% of residents had a high sedative load score ([greater than or equal to] 3) at baseline (12.2%), and this increased to 14.3% at time-points 2 and 3. Approximately two-thirds of residents (66.9%) were regularly prescribed one or more psychotropic medication(s). Antidepressants, predominantly SSRIs, were most frequently prescribed, while prescribing levels of sedative-hypnotics and anxiolytics were low. Throughout the duration of the study, prescribing of medications recognised as having prominent sedative adverse effects and/or containing sedative components outweighed the regular use of primary sedatives. CONCLUSIONS: Sedative load scores were similar throughout the study period for residents with dementia in each of the care homes. Scores were lower than previously reported in studies conducted in long-term care wards which have on site clinical support. Nevertheless, strategies to optimise drug therapy for care home residents with dementia which rely on clinicians external to the care home for support and medication review are required.
Original languageEnglish
Article number56
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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