Researchers Link Dementia Patients’ Wellbeing to Antipsychotic Drug Use

Abstaining from antipsychotic drugs could have positive effects on dementia patients’ overall health and well-being. 

Reducing the use of antipsychotic drugs in dementia care homes by an average 48% led to significant increases in resident well-being, both physically and mentally, according to data from Four Seasons Health Care, an independent healthcare provider in the United Kingdom.

Through an analysis of 16 homes in the PEARL specialized dementia care program, Four Seasons found well-being increased among 46% of residents, as it relates to resident interaction, ability to communicate needs and sense of purpose. 

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In addition to reductions in antipsychotic drug use, residents’ depression scores also fell by 30%. As well-being improved, Four Seasons notes, the use of antidepressant medication reduced on average by 19%. 

Medication reductions also contributed to fall prevention among PEARL residents, declining by 32%, as fall reduction may be attributed to increased alertness as a result of lessening of antipsychotics and hypnotics. 

The only medications to increase were the use of pain relievers, rising 10% on average while 17% of residents had a reduced pain score with the appropriate pain relief medication. 

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Reducing the use of antipsychotics can help providers administer more effective care to dementia patients, according to Caroline Baker, head of quality & dementia care for Four Seasons Health Care. 

“When people with dementia are showing distress reactions, this may be due to them experiencing pain or discomfort,” said Baker. “Yet too often, rather than care staff trying to identify and relive this symptom, the residents are needlessly given antipsychotic drugs to calm them and keep them quiet.”

In the UK, there are approximately 820,000 people with a form of dementia, with a new case occurring about every three minutes in England and Wales, notes Four Seasons. 

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“Far too many people with dementia are robbed of their well-being and effectively part of their lives because they are over-prescribed antipsychotic medication,” said Baker. “Reducing the use of these drugs is a national priority.”

Written by Jason Oliva