Psychotropic drug use among caregivers of patients with dementia.
The majority of research on "caregiver burden" focuses on mental health consequences. These stresses are associated with psychotropic drug use among some caregivers. The purposes of this paper are to identify the correlates of psychotropic drug use among caregivers of demented older adults and to determine whether or not certain types of psychotropics (ie, antianxiety, antidepressant, and sedative/hypnotic agents) have common or unique correlates. The prevalence of psychotropic drug use among caregivers in the sample (n = 510) is substantially higher than previously reported prevalence rates in the general population and among community-dwelling elderly. Using logistic regression techniques, caregiver characteristics (eg, gender, health, relationship to the patient) rather than severity of the patient's condition emerge as predictors of antianxiety, antidepressant, and sedative/hypnotic use. The caregiver's perception of how well he or she is supported in the caregiving role emerges as an important correlate of psychotropic drug use in general and especially of antidepressant consumption. Results suggest that caregivers are a high-risk group for the development of emotional symptoms such as nervousness, exhaustion, decreased appetite, and difficulty sleeping, symptoms that may or may not constitute a psychiatric disorder. Characteristics of the caregiver, especially aspects of the support system, should be important considerations in decisions to prescribe psychotropic drugs.
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