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Open Access Research article

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

Carole Parsons1*, Jane Haydock1, Elspeth Mathie2, Natasha Baron3, Ina Machen2, Elizabeth Stevenson2, Sarah Amador2 and Claire Goodman2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Pharmacy, Queen's University Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland, UK

2 Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, AL10 9AB, UK

3 General Practice & Primary Care Research Unit, Institute of Public Health, Robinson Way, Cambridge, CB2 0SR, UK

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BMC Geriatrics 2011, 11:56  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-11-56

Published: 30 September 2011

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, 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 (≥ 3) at baseline (12.2%), and this increased to 14.3% at time-points 2 and 3. Approximately two-thirds of residents (66.9%) regularly used one or more psychotropic medication(s). Antidepressants, predominantly selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), were most frequently used, while antipsychotics, hypnotics and anxiolytics were less routinely administered. The prevalence of antipsychotic use among residents was 19.0%, lower than has been previously reported for nursing home residents. Throughout the duration of the study, administration 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.