The office of the BC Seniors Advocate continues to relay concerns about the impact visitor restrictions have had on the mental health of residents at long-term and assisted-living facilities.

In its Staying Apart, Staying Safe Report, the proportion of residents that were dispensed antipsychotics from March to September saw the rate of use increase by 7%.

Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie told Vista Radio the jump has washed away any declines that were made in the last three or four years.

“BC has traditionally lagged Ontario and the national average in terms of our use of antipsychotics, we have tended to be higher prescribers of it, but even with that, we were seeing some decreases and made some progress but effectively, we have wiped out that progress.”

“And the reason we are concerned about that is we recognized a few years ago the use of antipsychotics in long-term care on how it really is an indication of quality care and the degree we can lower the use of antipsychotic medication.”

She added while antipsychotics can assist in treating serious conditions, they also present a number of dangers.

“The challenge in the using of antipsychotics you may decrease a person’s agitation but you are increasing potentially other issues such as cognitive impairment, fatigue, lethargy, things that can lead to confusion and an increase in falls.”

“Antipsychotics are very, very powerful and they are effective in treating psychotic conditions but what can happen is that we can start using antipsychotic medication to treat conditions that are not necessarily best treated for antipsychotics. What we are looking to do is bring rapid relief to a situation and usually it is involving agitation related issues among those in long-term care.”

So what’s the best solution to bring the increase back down?

“BC has a number of behavioural therapies and we have gentle persuasion and some other programs that work with residents to diffuse situations and have what we call non-pharmacological interventions. Those take not just training but they also take time and I think part of what we are seeing here is a reflection of the stress from the long-term care system during this pandemic related to families aren’t visiting their loved ones the way they were before,” added Mackenzie.

In addition, the Office of the Seniors Advocate also saw a 3% spike in the rate of prescribing of antidepressants.