, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 63-70
Date: 28 Aug 2012

Sedative Load among Long-Term Care Facility Residents with and without Dementia

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Background and Objective: People with cognitive impairment are particularly susceptible to adverse drug events linked to sedative and psychotropic drugs. A model to calculate sedative load has been developed to quantify the cumulative effect of taking multiple drugs with sedative properties. The objective of this study was to describe the sedative load and use of sedative and psychotropic drugs among long-term care facility residents with and without dementia.

Methods: Cross-sectional data were collected from all 53 long-term care wards in Helsinki, Finland, in September 2003. Of the 1444 eligible residents, consent to participate was obtained for 1087 (75%) residents. Medication and diagnostic data were available for 1052 residents. All drugs were classified using the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification system. Sedative load was calculated for each resident using a previously published four-group model.

Results: Of the 1052 residents, 781 (74.2%) were determined to have dementia. Residents with and without dementia had a similar sedative load (mean 3.0 vs 2.7, p = 0.267), but residents with dementia were taking fewer drugs than residents without dementia (mean 6.7 vs 7.4, p = 0.011). Residents with dementia were more frequent users of antipsychotics (42.8% vs 32.8%, p = 0.004), but less frequent users of antidepressants (35.6% vs 46.1%, p = 0.002) and sedative-hypnotics (22.8% vs 27.7%, p = 0.003) than residents without dementia. The most frequently used primary sedatives among people with dementia were temazepam (n = 122, 15.6%), oxazepam (n = 98, 12.5%) and lorazepam (n = 95, 12.2%). The most frequently used drugs with sedation as a prominent adverse effect or preparations with a sedating component among people with dementia were citalopram (n = 183, 23.4%), risperidone (n = 155, 19.8%) and olanzapine (n = 73, 9.3%).

Conclusions: Residents with dementia were less frequent users of sedative-hypnotic drugs than residents without dementia. However, residents with and without dementia had a similar sedative load. Clinicians should be aware of the extent to which all individual drugs, not only those prescribed for intentional sedation, contribute to a resident’s sedative load. The very high rates of sedative and psychotropic use observed in long-term care facility residents highlight the need for new strategies to optimize drug use.