Elderly people in a sample of British nursing homes are being given prescribed strong tranquillisers with no proper medical justification, according to new research.
More than 80% of elderly residents have been given the drugs to quieten them if they have “behavioural problems” but doctors who conducted the study are concerned that these drugs could make their dementia worse and risk causing danger to their health and well-being. The Liberal Democrats’ spokesman for older people, Paul Burstow, said they were the victims of “a chemical cosh” and said nursing homes that are seriously short of trained staff were turning to chemical cocktails to make patients easy to manage.
The study, published in the medical journal Age and Ageing, covered nearly 1,000 people over 65 in nursing homes in the Thames region. The authors of the research were given access to all their medical notes in the first project to try to reach an objective evaluation of the use of drugs for the elderly. They found the drugs were given to just under 25% of all patients. But medical notes showed the prescriptions were not “appropriate therapy” for 82.8% of those who received them. And some patients were being prescribed more than one drug.
The research is part of a project at the Department of Health’s clinical age research unit.