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A cross-sectional examination of the prevalence of psychotropic medications for people living with dementia in Australian long-term care facilities: issues of concern

  • Mitchell McMaster (a1), Elaine Fielding (a2), David Lim (a3), Wendy Moyle (a4), Elizabeth Beattie (a2) and The AusQoL Group (a1) (a2) (a3) (a4)...



Behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) are a common problem in long-term care facilities (LTC). Clinical guidelines dictate that first-line treatments for BPSD are psychosocial and behavioral interventions; if these are unsuccessful, psychotropic medications may be trialed at low doses and their effects can be monitored.


There have previously been no studies with nationally representative samples to investigate psychotropic administration in LTCs in Australia. This study determines the prevalence of psychotropic administration in a representative stratified random sample of 446 residents living with dementia from 53 Australian LTCs. Questionnaire and medical chart data in this study is drawn from a larger cross-sectional, mixed methods study on quality of life in Australian LTCs.


It was found that 257 (58%) residents were prescribed psychotropic medications including: antipsychotics (n = 160, 36%), benzodiazepines (n = 136, 31%), antidepressants (n = 117, 26%), and anti-dementia medications (n = 9, 2%). BPSD were found to be very common in the sample, with 82% (n = 364) of participants experiencing at least one BPSD. The most prevalent BPSD were depression (n = 286, 70%) and agitation (n = 299, 67%).


Although detailed background information was not collected on individual cases, the prevalence found is indicative of systematic industry-wide, over-prescription of psychotropic medications as a first-line treatment for BPSD. This study highlights a clear need for further research and interventions in this area.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Mitchell McMaster, Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing, Florey Building #54, Mills Rd, Acton, ACT, 2602. Phone: +61-2-61256351; Fax: +61-2-61251558. Email:


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International Psychogeriatrics
  • ISSN: 1041-6102
  • EISSN: 1741-203X
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