Integrating palliative medicine into the care of persons with advanced dementia: identifying appropriate medication use

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2008 Jul;56(7):1306-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2008.01741.x. Epub 2008 May 12.


Objectives: To evaluate the feasibility of developing consensus recommendations for appropriate prescribing for patients with advanced dementia using a new conceptual framework and to determine the frequency of inappropriate medication use based on these recommendations in a small sample of patients with advanced dementia.

Design: Medication data were obtained using chart review. Recommendations for appropriate prescribing were achieved using a modified Delphi consensus panel.

Setting: Three long-term care facilities.

Participants: Thirty-four patients with advanced dementia enrolled in the Palliative Excellence in Alzheimer Care Efforts Program were selected to evaluate medication use. Twelve geriatricians at the University of Chicago participated in the modified Delphi consensus panel.

Measurements: Prescription and over-the-counter medications were recorded for the 34 patients. Following the modified Delphi process, medications were characterized into one of four categories for use in palliative care patients with advanced dementia: never appropriate, rarely appropriate, sometimes appropriate, or always appropriate.

Results: Patients were taking an average of 6.5 medications at enrollment. Six patients were taking 10 or more medications daily. Consensus was reached ranking the appropriateness of 69 of 81 medication classes for patients with advanced dementia. Overall, 5% of the 221 medications prescribed at enrollment were considered to be never appropriate, and 10 of 34 patients (29%) had been taking a medication considered to be never appropriate.

Conclusion: Based on these preliminary findings, consensus criteria for prescribing in advanced dementia are needed to decrease polypharmacy and reduce the use of medications that are of minimal benefit or high risk.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / classification
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Palliative Care*
  • Polypharmacy*
  • Severity of Illness Index