B.C. seniors' advocate says psychotic drugs being prescribed without diagnosis

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VICTORIA - The advocate for seniors in British Columbia says too many people in government care are prescribed antipsychotic drugs without being properly diagnosed.

Isobel Mackenzie reviewed assessment records for 54,000 seniors in both residential and home care in her report, Placement, Drugs and Therapy ... We Can Do Better.

Of the 25,000 people in residential care, about a third are prescribed antipsychotic drugs, but only four per cent of them have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, she said.

"We know we are over-prescribing drugs to seniors," Mackenzie said in an interview on Tuesday. "It's called polypharmacy, too many drugs to the same person at the same time. But this is a very stark presentation of just how bad the situation is and the magnitude out there."

Her report also said just under half of residential care clients are being prescribed antidepressant medications, but only 24 per cent have been assessed with depression. She said seniors are often over-prescribed medications in efforts to help them, their families and caregivers through potentially stressful and harmful situations.

"We should be asking serious questions, given the side-effects of these drugs, as to whether they are the most appropriate for the seniors in question," her report stated.

Mackenzie said up to 15 per cent of seniors in residential care could instead be living independently with the aid of assisted living or in community care.

Her report also said B.C. lags behind Alberta and Ontario when it comes to offering rehabilitation therapies for seniors.

Opposition New Democrat seniors critic Maurine Karagianis said in a statement the report highlights the government's failure to address long-standing seniors-care issues.

"This report is a damning indictment of a Liberal government that has shown no willingness to fix the problems that they've caused in seniors' care," she said.

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