Academics at the University of Exeter and King’s College London compared current prescribing with pre-coronavirus levels. They said the number of people with dementia receiving these prescriptions had soared from 18 per cent to 28 per cent since 2018 – with prescription rates of more than 50 per cent in a third of care homes.
The research compared more than 700 care home residents taking part in two studies either side of the pandemic.
Professor Clive Ballard, who was part of a national campaign in 2009 to reduce antipsychotic prescribing by half, said: “We urgently need to find ways to prioritise support to prevent people with dementia being exposed to significant harms.”
Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat some of the more distressing symptoms of dementia, such as agitation and psychotic episodes.
However, they have only very limited, short-term benefits – and significantly increase the risk of serious side effects, including stroke, accelerated decline and death.
Covid-19 presented unprecedented challenges for care homes, where around 70 per cent of residents have dementia, including staffing levels, isolation, and caring for residents in lockdown conditions.