Background: Most studies examining psychotropic medication use on cognition in older persons with dementia include measures of global cognitive function. The present study examined the relationship between different types of psychotropic medication and specific cognitive functions in older people with dementia.
Methods: Two hundred and six institutionalized older adults with dementia (180 women, mean age 85 years) were administered neuropsychological tests. Psychotropic medication use was extracted from their medical status and categorized as: sedatives, antidepressants and antipsychotics.
Results: Analysis of covariance revealed that psychotropic consumers, and particularly those who used antipsychotics, performed worse on neuropsychological tests of executive/attentional functioning than non-consumers. There were no differences between consumers of other classes of psychotropic drugs and non-consumers. The number of psychotropic drugs used was inversely related to executive/attentional functioning.
Conclusions: These findings show that in institutionalized older adults with dementia, specific impairment of cognitive function, i.e. executive/attentional impairments, are associated with antipsychotic medication use. Future longitudinal studies are recommended.