Preventing Unnecessary Use of Antipsychotics in Dementia Care
Published: 15 October 2017
Published: 15 October 2017
So, how can nurses use non-pharmacological interventions to prevent antipsychotic use for people with dementia?
According to a systematic review by Richter et al. (2012), psychosocial interventions for aged care residents with dementia can prevent the use of antipsychotic medicine.
Often, behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia such as agitation are treated in residential facilities with prescribed antipsychotic medicines. However, this can lead to frequent side effects including falls, sedation and cardiovascular issues (Richter et al. 2012). Additionally, antipsychotic medicines have been associated with increased risk of stroke, increased risk of mortality and confusion (Alzheimer’s Australia 2014).
A study in Sweden found that people with dementia who lived in specialised units were often inappropriately prescribed long-term antipsychotics (Gustaffson, Karlsson & Lovheim 2013). The participants of the study were most likely to be prescribed antipsychotic medicines if they were observed as being aggressive or passive, or if they had a mild cognitive impairment (Gustaffson et al. 2013).
Again, these findings reinforce the need to have medical officers and pharmacists regularly review medicines to ensure that clients are receiving appropriate treatments for their individual needs/changes for only the appropriate/necessary timeframe. This study emphasises that antipsychotic medications should be time-limited and Selbaek et al. (cited in Gustaffson et al. 2013) ‘demonstrated that most symptoms show an intermittent course which does not support long-term treatment with antipsychotics’. O’Connor et al. (cited in Gustaffson et al. 2013) suggest that sometimes symptoms are categorised as being current, but are actually intermittent.
Psychosocial or ‘non-pharmacological’ interventions may involve interpersonal interactions such as verbal discussions, health education and psychological approaches. A multi-strategy approach is recommended (Richter et al. 2012).
One approach could involve monthly interprofessional team meetings to discuss residents’ medicine use. Others may involve offering an information session for family members or carers, and completing quarterly medicine reviews for each resident. It could also be beneficial to include a strategy such as evidence-based training videos and/or consultations for workers who care for people with dementia (Richter et al. 2012).
Gustaffson et al. (2013) emphasise the need to investigate symptoms thoroughly to identify triggers for behaviours of concern. They also recommend that in addition to reviewing medicines, discontinuation is considered if the medicines have ‘potentially adverse effects on the central nervous system’.
Gustaffson et al. (2013) also suggest that environmental factors can support people with dementia more effectively if music, physical activity and recreation are included in care delivery.
There are many triggers that may lead to behavioural changes, including:
(Better Health Channel 2014)
(Dementia Australia 2017; Better Health Channel 2014)
(Dementia Australia 2017)
Dr Henie Williams is a Sexual Health Physician at MSHC, Alfred Health and Senior Lecturer in Sexual Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne. Hennie completed her medical training in the UK as well as post graduate training in sexual health including family planning and genito-urinary medicine. Since moving to Australia she has undertaken an MPH and become a Fellow of Australasian Chapter of Sexual Health Medicine and has continued to work in this field. Her professional interests include sexual health education for health professionals, access to sexual health services for those most at risk and the public health control of STIs. Currently her position includes co-ordinating the sexual health stream in the MPH as well as co-ordinating the graduate certificate in sexual health at the University of Melbourne as well as clinical sexual health work at MSHC, Alfred Health. See Educator Profile