A training programme for care home staff helped reduce the inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs for dementia sufferers by a third, according to research published today.
The Focused Intervention Training and Support Programme (FITS) is designed to help staff understand the behaviour of people with dementia and focus on individuals’ needs rather than simply turning to potentially harmful antipsychotic drugs.
For some people with dementia antipsychotics can make symptoms worse, double the risk of death and treble the risk of stroke.
The nine-month FITS scheme saw staff, including nurses and care home managers, trained up as “dementia care coaches” who reviewed medication policies and promote best practice.
Staff at 67 care homes completed the nine-month programme, which was evaluated by the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester.
“This research shows that person-centred care is an effective alternative”
Findings, launched at the Alzheimer’s Society’s research conference, show prescriptions of antipsychotic drugs went down by 30% in settings that took part.
The study also found improvements in the wellbeing of residents with dementia as well as benefits for staff, families and the overall care home environment.
However, of the 106 care homes that embarked on the study almost 40% were not able to complete the training due to issues like lack of time and high staff turnover.
The research concluded support from management was crucial to the success of the scheme.
“We have shown that FITS is feasible to deliver on a large scale, reduced the prescription of inappropriate antipsychotics and empowers teams to work in a person-centred way,” said lead researcher Professor Dawn Brooker from the University of Worcester.
“Provided the right facilitators are in place, it is an effective way to improve quality of life for people with dementia in care homes.”
Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society said too often antipsychotic drugs were used as a “first resort”.
“This research shows that person-centred care is an effective alternative and has positive benefits for patients and staff,” he said.