The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission received funding in the 2019-2020 Federal Budget to undertake work over two years aimed at reducing (and ideally 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 antibiotic medicines.
Our initial focus is on psychotropic medicines used in aged care.
Psychotropic medicines are medications that are capable of affecting 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.
However, 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, impacting negatively on 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.
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 is prioritising the development of resources aimed primarily at consumers and their family members and decision-makers. Our objective is 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
We are also planning initiatives targeting aged care providers, as well as GPs and pharmacists involved with aged care services. Because pharmacists have specialised knowledge and skills in medication management and education, we are in the process of engaging clinical pharmacists to assist us with this work. One of their early jobs will be to contact and potentially visit service providers in rural and remote Australia, to hear about those services’ needs, barriers and challenges regarding best practice medication management, and to offer guidance and education where requested.
We are engaging with a range of stakeholders in the aged care sector including peak bodies representing consumers, health professionals and aged care providers, to understand the issues, and to enable us to promote better practice. The Commission is committed to working with these stakeholders, in conjunction with the Department of Health, to protect and enhance the safety, health, wellbeing and quality of life of aged care consumers.
- The Aged Care Quality Standards and Charter of Aged Care Rights underpin the Commission’s work.
- This self assessment tool for consumers receiving psychotropic medication has been sent to all aged care providers. It will help them to identify some of the residents whose medication may need reviewing.
Further resources and information will be added to this page as they become available.
Reducing the use of sedatives - video
Click here to watch a short video on the Reducing the Use of Sedatives program.
Department of Health resources on psychotropic prescribing in residential aged care
The Department of Health has published a range of resources and information for prescribers to support care of people with dementia who live in residential aged care.
A particularly useful resource is the single page infographic on safe prescribing of antipsychotics and benzodiazepines.