Objective: To determine whether individualized advice on non-pharmacological strategies for hospitalized older patients with confusion and behavioral problems can improve levels of agitation and reduce the use of psychotropic medication.
Method: Pragmatic randomized controlled trial in two metropolitan teaching hospitals in South Australia. Seventy-one older patients with confusion and a behavioral disturbance were randomly allocated to receive either an assessment and ongoing individualized advice from an extended practice nurse on non-pharmacological strategies or usual care. Usual care included an assessment by a geriatrician.
Measurements: Primary outcomes were levels of agitation (Pittsburgh Agitation Scale), appropriateness of psychotropic medication prescribing (Medication Appropriateness Index) and levels of psychotropics administered (chlorpromazine and diazepam dose equivalents). Secondary outcomes were length of stay, discharge destination, number of falls, restraint use and satisfaction from nursing staff and next of kin.
Results: Levels of agitation were modest at baseline with mean PAS intervention group 3.4 (SD = 0.5) and control group 4.0 (SD = 0.4) and both groups improved over time to 1.7 (SD = 0.4) for the intervention group and 1.8 (SD = 0.3) for the control group on the final day of data collection. Median length of follow-up was nine days. There was no effect of the intervention on levels of agitation, amount and appropriateness of psychotropic medication prescribed and administered, falls, length of stay, discharge destination, restraint use and nursing and next of kin satisfaction.
Conclusion: A nursing consultation service providing individualized non-pharmacological advice does not improve patient agitation or use of psychotropic medication for older patients with confusion and behavioral problems in an acute hospital.