According to a study released earlier this month by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, up to one third of residents at Ontario long-term care facilities are being prescribed dangerous antipsychotics and sedatives. The study suggests that 45% of residents between the ages of 65 and 79 at nearly 300 different homes in the province are over-medicated with drugs that can cause falls, bedsores, blood clots, and potentially-fatal reactions to the drugs themselves.
Medications, such as diazepam and lorazepam, are ordinarily administered to prevent patients with dementia from wandering. While these drugs are typically used to sedate residents who may be otherwise become aggressive or difficult to control, the potential side effects of over-medication include death.
A recent article in the Toronto Star described Ethel Geraldine Anderson, an 85 year-old woman with dementia who had been heavily sedated when she suffered a lethal fall. The Ontario Coroner’s Office concluded that the woman’s death was due, at least in part, to her over-medication. Ms. Anderson had been given increasing doses of risperidone and other drugs to control her dementia and wandering. The Coroner’s Office reported that risperidone is an antipsychotic drug that has only been approved in the treatment of severe psychosis, and that it was used inappropriately to prevent Ms. Anderson from wandering the halls of the facility where she lived.
Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, has stated that one of the Ministry’s priorities going forward is ensuring that medications are appropriately prescribed and administered at long-term care facilities. Matthews plans to work closely with the medical community to improve care for Ontario seniors, and to avoid such preventable deaths caused by over-medication in the future.
Thank you for reading.