Training care home staff to properly help dementia sufferers could reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs by up to 50%, research suggests.
The Alzheimer’s Society said 144,000 people with dementia are “inappropriately” prescribed the drugs with increased risk of death or stroke.
It said the drugs can also leave people unable to walk or talk.
Staff at more than 150 care homes across the UK will be specially trained in a bid to reduce the number of patients unnecessarily taking the drug, the charity said.
They will learn simple exercises such as care home residents’ life stories to connect with them.
A trial of the programme saw a considerable drop in the number of patients taking the medication.
The study saw 349 people in 12 care homes tested. After 12 months the number of people on antipsychotics in the care homes trialing the scheme was considerably lower than the number in the control homes - 23% and 42% respectively.
Alzheimer’s Society director of research Professor Clive Ballard said: “Finding a way to end the unacceptable levels of inappropriate antipsychotic prescriptions to people with dementia is an urgent priority we all have to address.
“If we don’t, many thousand more people will have their health and quality of life put at risk. FITS (the new training programme) has the potential to have a huge impact.”