Nursing homes have come under fire in recent years for the widespread use of antipsychotic drugs among elderly patients with dementia, as many centers use the drugs to quell outbursts and aggression, while ignoring the many potentially serious health risks to the patient.
Now, there is cause for concern among elderly patients regarding another type of drug: Benzodiazepines. These medications are typically prescribed for insomnia or anxiety. However, new research reveals that while these medications are more widely prescribed than previously thought, they may pose particular danger for older patients. Specifically for those in nursing homes, they may contribute to falls and fractures and reduced cognition.
A recent study by the Journal American Medical Association Psychiatry, nearly 9 percent of Americans between the ages of 65 and 80 are prescribed at least one type of benzodiazepines. These sedative-hypnotic drugs can include Klonopin, Xanax, Valium or Ativan. For older women, the rate of prescription is 11 percent.