The Commission received funding in the 2019-2020 Federal Budget to undertake work over two years aimed at reducing (and ultimately eliminating) the inappropriate use of medicines in aged care settings. Two categories of medication with a higher risk of inappropriate use are psychotropic medicines and antimicrobial medicines.
The Commission’s initial focus is on psychotropic medicines used in aged care.
Psychotropic medicines are medications that can affect an individual’s mind, emotions, and behaviour. Psychotropic medicines can have significant therapeutic benefit in the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders including psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and anxiety disorders.
There is considerable evidence that psychotropic medicines are of limited assistance in the management of individuals demonstrating challenging behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD). These medicines can also do harm, negatively affecting a person’s health, functioning and quality of life. Despite this, psychotropic medicines continue to be prescribed for a number of people in aged care experiencing BPSD and are sometimes used for long periods.
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission released a joint statement committing to a national collaborative approach to reduce the inappropriate use of psychotropics to manage and control behaviours of older people and people with a disability.
Reducing the use of sedatives in aged care video
Resources for consumers and their representatives
In the context of the new Aged Care Quality Standards that put each consumer at the centre of the picture, the Commission has partnered with the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) to develop resources for consumers, their family members and decision-makers.
These resources are designed to raise awareness of the issues relating to psychotropic medicines, and to help consumers and their representatives understand and confidently perform their role as active participants in making informed decisions (including giving or refusing consent) about medication use.
Resources for providers
A Self-assessment tool for consumers receiving psychotropic medication has been sent to all aged care providers. It has been developed to support services to identify consumers whose medication may need reviewing.
Medication-related complaints in residential aged care
Associate Professor Juanita Breen reviewed medication-related complaints received by the Commission in 2019-20. Her findings are a reminder of the importance of the 6 rights of safe medication administration.
Department of Health resources on psychotropic prescribing in residential aged care
The Department of Health's resources and information provide support for the care of people with dementia who live in residential aged care.
The Commission engages with stakeholders in the aged care sector including peak bodies representing consumers, health professionals and aged care providers. The Commission is committed to working with these stakeholders, in conjunction with the Department of Health, to protect and enhance the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of aged care consumers.
The Commission is also undertaking initiatives with aged care providers, General Practitioners and pharmacists involved with aged care services. As pharmacists have specialised knowledge and skills in medication management and education, the Commission has engaged clinical pharmacists to assist with this work. See the Project updates for more information.