High rates of psychotropic medications are prescribed in aged care homes despite their limited effectiveness and associated adverse effects. We aim to evaluate the changes in prescription patterns for elderly residents with dementia in the ‘Harmony in the Bush Dementia Study’. Harmony in the Bush is a person-centered model of dementia care in nursing homes, based on the principles of Progressively Lowered Stress Threshold and person-centered music intervention.
Our larger study (12 weeks period) was a quasi-experimental design conducted in five rural nursing homes in Australia. Medication charts (n = 31) were collected retrospectively from three rural aged care facilities. Medication data for each resident was collected from a three-month medication charts, pre-intervention, and post-intervention. Fifty-three staff participated in 31 semi-structured interviews and 8 focus groups at post-intervention, and at 1-month and 3-months follow up.
The median age of the participants was 83 years, and 68% of them were female. Polypharmacy was measured in 87% (n = 27) of the participants. Hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and the Alzheimer’s disease were the major comorbidities identified in residents. None of the residents received more than the maximum dose of psychotropic medications recommended by the guidelines. There was a reduction of 22.4% (77.4% vs 55%) in the use of at least any psychotropic medications, 19.6% (39% vs, 19.4%) reduction in antipsychotics and benzodiazepines (39% vs 19.4%), and 6.5% (42% vs 35.5%) reduction in antidepressants prescription medicines, when comparing residents’ medication charts data covering 3-months pre- and post-intervention, however, these changes were not statistically significant. Additionally, there was a decreasing trend in the use of inappropriate medications. Psychotropic medications were prescribed in up to 43% and anti-dementia medications in 44% of participants for more than 6 months. Three themes extracted from qualitative data include decrease behavioral and psychiatric symptoms of dementia due to medication weaning or dose tapering, other strategies to reduce medication use, and environmental or noise control.
Our findings indicate that the Harmony in the Bush model as a non-pharmacological approach reduces the prescription of psychotropic medications in rural nursing homes as supported by findings from both quantitative and qualitative data.
ANZCTR, ACTRN12618000263291. Registered on 20th February 2018.