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Serving Fulton, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Knox, McDonough, Mercer, Schuyler, Rock Island, and Warren Counties.

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Health care professionals see more and more prescriptions for psychotropic medications with the elderly. In the community setting, older adults are 7 to 18 times more likely to be using psychotropic drugs than middle-aged adults. While the elderly may be dealing with chronic medical conditions, they are often struggling with mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorders, anxiety, chronic pain disorders, or dementia. All these conditions would justify physicians ordering psychotropic medications. The concern with this is that in elderly patients their bodies can respond and handle the medications differently with age.  It is important for patients and families to be aware of this.  


One issue is that elderly patients are often taking multiple medications for chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease. It is extremely important for all the prescribing physicians to be aware of what a patient is currently taking so they can monitor for specific interactions with psychotropic medications and other medications. Unfortunately, this does not happen easily and many times it’s the pharmacist that identifies there could be a problem. Communicate with your pharmacist and make sure all your providers are aware of what you are currently prescribed.


There is also the concern that certain psychotropic medications are specifically harmful to areas of the body. A person with a heart condition, for example, should not be prescribed a common psychotropic medication that research shows is not good on the heart. Although at times the benefit will outweigh the risk, the patient and family should be aware of this when consulting with a physician and making the decision to take it.  


The increased sensitivity to psychotropic drugs in an elderly person’s body often causes increased risk of falls and confusion. This should be considered since one of the top reasons for hospitalization and nursing home placement in the elderly is from falls. Along with this, older adults age 70 and over are 3.5 times more likely than younger people to be admitted to the hospital due to adverse reactions to psychotropic drugs.


Psychotropic medications do play an important role in quality of life and improved mental health in the elderly. Monitoring the patient at home and reporting to the doctor side effects noticed or the improvements made on the drug is imperative. When using these medications, having a nurse who is qualified to monitor psychotropic medications from home and report to the doctor is the best practice.


Western Illinois Home Health Care is the only home health care agency in the area certified for psychiatric nursing. If you, or someone you know, is currently taking psychotropic medications or has a new prescription for this type of medication, call us at 1-800-228-5993 or visit our website at www.wihhc.com to learn more about how we can help.


Amanda Powell, MSW is the Director of Client Services at Western Illinois Home Health Care

November 2018

by Amanda Powell

Psychotropic Drugs and the Elderly

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