A care home group has dramatically reduced the use of antipsychotic drugs amongst its service users with dementia as a result of using psychosocial interventions as an alternative.
Working in collaboration with a specialist Admiral Nurse, staff at Colten Care’s 20 homes have targeted service users living on its dementia units displaying aggression, agitation, low mood or anxiety and used measures such as music, drama, poetry and active listening as ways of reducing symptoms and improving quality of life. At the start of the trial, 64 out of 260 service users were routinely prescribed antipsychotic medication but this had reduced to just 32 after 3 months.
The use of antipsychotics in dementia is linked to a wide range of adverse effects including increased risk of falls, infections, stroke, drowsiness and even death so this study provides useful evidence of the value of skilled carers in providing effective dementia care. Read on to learn more about the non-pharmaceutical interventions you could use in your service to improve the lives of people living with dementia.
Improve Quality of Life
Statistics suggest that around 180,000 people in England living with dementia are prescribed antipsychotic drugs each year, resulting in up to 1,800 additional deaths. With many of these people likely to be living in care homes, it’s essential that care staff supporting people with dementia have the knowledge and skills to avoid unnecessary use of antipsychotics drugs. In many cases, time spent interacting and engaging with a person with dementia can literally safe a life.
4 Interventions to Reduce Antipsychotic Use in Your Service
- Provide stimulation: Boredom and a lack of opportunity to engage with others can often lead to low mood, frustration and even aggression, all of which are often treated with antipsychotic medication. Providing appropriate stimulation through person-centred activities, music, social opportunities or one to one support will help to reduce the need for unnecessary drugs.
- Encourage exercise: Being contained in a care home can be frustrating, particularly for people living with dementia who are still relatively fit and mobile. Consider how you can support service users to exercise regularly, either indoors e.g. through exercise classes, or by being supported to go outdoors for regular walks or even visiting the local swimming pool.
- Support adequate sleep: A lack of sleep can have a huge impact on the mood and wellbeing of a person with dementia but is often overlooked. If a person with dementia is waking regularly during the night or struggling to settle in the evening, investigate how this can be tackled. Measures such as reducing noise levels and unnecessary disturbances, building a night time routine or reducing caffeine intake may all contribute to improved sleep and a better mood during waking hours.
- Be alert to physical symptoms: The presence of pain or infection can quickly affect the behaviour of a person with dementia and may lead to antipsychotic drugs being used if it is not detected. Always consider physical causes for any change in behaviour and seek to treat these with the help of medical support rather than relying on mood altering medication.