Prescribing psychotropics in aged care

Psychotropics are a type of drug sometimes prescribed in residential aged care settings. Find resources and information on prescribing psychotropics for people in residential aged care.

What are psychotropics?

Psychotropics are drugs that effect a person’s mental state. These include:

About prescribing psychotropics

Psychotropics are sometimes used to manage behaviours and psychological symptoms of dementia.

Evidence suggests that, for most people living with dementia, using these medications to manage dementia-related behaviour is contraindicated and can cause harm.

Prescribing antipsychotics or benzodiazepines should be the exception, not the norm.

If you’re thinking of prescribing these medicines, you should:

  • talk to family and frontline workers who know the person best
  • make sure the person has been assessed to work out what triggers the behaviour  
  • check other strategies have been tried

Alternatives to prescribing psychotropics

In most cases, a person’s symptoms can be managed without medication.

Help frontline workers and families with problem solving to understand and manage behaviours. Talk with them about whether they have tried any other strategies — what worked and what didn’t.

If you decide to prescribe psychotropics

You should discuss the risks and benefits with the person and their decision maker (if they have one), and get informed consent.

When you have consent:

  • start on a low dose and measure the response against the documented behaviours
  • increase the dose very gradually, if needed 
  • plan a regular review for every 4 to 12 weeks

When to deprescribe psychotropics

You should deprescribe psychotropics:

  • if there is no improvement in 4 weeks
  • if the symptoms do not return after reducing the dose over time

Resources

Prescribing psychotropic medications to people in aged care – information and resources

This fact sheet for prescribers contains a list of available information and resources about prescribing psychotropic medications to people in aged care.

Contact

Dementia Australia

Dementia Australia is the national peak body for people of all ages living with all forms of dementia, and their families and carers.

View contact

Last updated: 
22 January 2020

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