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J Aging Health. 1991 Nov;3(4):455-72.

Mental illness and psychotropic medication use in the nursing home.

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  • 1University of Wisconsin-Madison.


The authors examined mental illness and psychotropic medications use among nursing home residents. Data were drawn from the Texas Long-Term Care Reimbursement Project, a 1986 study of nearly 2,000 residents in 49 nursing homes. The study measured the use of antipsychotics and other psychotropic medications, physical health conditions, mental illness diagnoses, behavior, and nursing and other direct-care time for sampled residents. The findings indicated that 45% of the sample was receiving an antipsychotic or other psychotropic medication. Although psychotropics were prescribed more extensively for those with a psychiatric diagnosis, nearly one half of persons without a psychiatric diagnosis were receiving psychotropic medications at the time of the survey. Moreover, psychotropics were quite prevalent among those with unstable medical conditions and/or severe activities of daily living impairment. Neither a mental illness diagnosis, evidence of a behavioral problem, nor use of psychotropics was significantly correlated with the amount of nursing or other direct-care time received by residents. The findings raise concerns about the widespread prescribing of these medications, especially among residents who have no supporting psychiatric diagnosis and/or who have physical health conditions making them vulnerable to adverse drug effects.

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