COVID-19 and Increased Medication Use

Angie SzumlinskiHealth, Medication

The pandemic has had a huge impact on all of us, but even more so for residents living in post-acute centers. We have all witnessed the loneliness, isolation, physical and mental declines and if that isn’t troubling enough, a recent study found a significant increase in residents receiving antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, trazodone hydrochloride, anticonvulsants, and opioids.

If you think about it, residents were totally isolated for many months and some still are. Caregivers were trained to be “one-and-done”, right? Put on your PPE (already a detriment to seniors who may be confused and now can’t see the caregiver’s face), zip into a resident room (fearful of contracting or spreading the virus), provide the basic care needed, and zip out. Oh, and also empty the wastebasket while you are there!

Depression is real for seniors, an increase in antidepressants doesn’t necessarily mean it is a negative. That said, those residents receiving new orders for these medications during the pandemic should be re-evaluated as we continue to open our communities and become more social. If the depressive symptoms are what is referred to as “situational depression”, many of these medications may be weaned off. Take a few minutes to review your pharmacy report, request a copy of “new” orders for these medications from the past 6-8 months. Discuss the report at QAPI, involve the medical director and physicians, and ask the question “Can we reduce any of these medications safely?”. You may be surprised by what you find! Stay well, stay informed, and stay tuned!

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