Advising with empathy and experience

Concern about antipsychotic prescriptions in care homes.

A study carried out using information from Northern Ireland shows dramatic increases in antipsychotic prescriptions following admittance to a care home.

Researchers from Queens University Belfast discovered that 20.3% of care home residents were on some form of antipsychotic drug as opposed to only 1.1% who were receiving care in their own homes.

The research team also looked at dispensing records for those moving into care homes between January 2009 and January 2010. Alarmingly medication rates sky rocketed.

Before moving into care 1.1% were on anti-psychotics, once in a care home this figure had risen to 8.2%. One year into their residence in a care home 18.6% had been put onto some form of regular anti-psychotic medication.

Furthermore it was found that within six months of being admitted to a care home, around 30% of all residents had received at least one prescription for an antipsychotic.  

The study also found that the number of elderly individuals prescribed hypnotics doubled upon entry to a care home, as did the number of individuals on anti anxiety medication.

The medications in question were intended to be used for severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) warns that most of these medications are not suitable for those with dementia.  

Lead researcher Aideen Maguire admitted the study was unable to discover how appropriate the prescriptions were. There is the possibility that residents’ mental health deteriorates or they become anxious over the new environment but she went on to say that there was “probably” inappropriate prescribing occurring.

Maguire said “Although drug dispensing is high in older people in the community we have found that it increases dramatically on entry to care…With an ageing population globally it is important that we look at the reasons behind this type of increase following admission into care.”