A fresh report to be presented by the agency on Thursday shows that more than 40 percent of nursing home residents in Sweden are on antidepressants.
The agency now plans to issue new guidelines and advice to municipalities and county health authorities responsible for operating the country’s nursing homes.
“We’re very surprised considering that Socialstyrelsen has been shouting rather loudly for several years and very clearly pointing out that the problem remains,” said Christer Neleryd, who heads the agency’s division for the elderly, to Sveriges Radio (SR).
“When it comes to medication and especially medicine’s effects on the elderly, there is a lack of competence at all levels, from doctors down to nurses and nursing assistants.”
The health board has long warned that patients living in Sweden’s nursing homes are given more medications than necessary and the new report shows the situation hasn’t changed much, according to SR.
Currently, nearly 15 percent of people aged 80 or older take ten or more medicines. While the figure represents only a marginal increase from 2005, the agency had hoped for a decrease.
Of particular concern are figures showing that residents in nursing homes used more than twice as many psychopharmacological drugs than older Swedes who live at home.
According to Johan Fastbom, an expert on the elderly and drugs with the health board, one of the causes behind the overmedication of nursing home residents is that personnel at the facilities often don’t know how to manage patients’ syptoms.
The agency plans to issue new guidelines later this year to help ensure municipalities and county health authorities enforce more regular checkups of elderly to assess how they are being affected by their medications.
While the new rules are still under development, Socialstyrelsen hopes they will lead to more careful administration of medicines to nursing home residents and the discontinuation of drugs which are no longer necessary or not having the desired effects for the patients taking them.