Residents of nursing and residential homes are often prescribed medication for physical and mental ill-health with resultant polypharmacy and the possibility of iatrogenic disorders. Sometimes drugs are prescribed inappropriately and a number of studies have highlighted the overuse of psychotropic drugs. Legislation in the USA has been effective in controlling their use in that neuroleptic prescriptions for the treatment of behavioural disturbances have been significantly reduced and non-pharmacists have a role to play in the appropriate management of medicines in elderly residents; they can improve patient care and be cost-effective. Identification of methods by which to improve awareness of inappropriate medication prescription and to avoid certain types of drugs is required. This review critically evaluates medication use in this population with specific reference to psychotropics and aims to raise awareness of the issue.