Is Covert Medication in Norwegian Nursing Homes Still a Problem? A Cross-Sectional Study
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionKirkevold, Ø. og Engedal, K. (2009) Is Covert Medication in Norwegian Nursing Homes Still a Problem? A Cross-Sectional Study. Drugs & Aging, 26(4), s. 333-344. 10.2165/00002512-200926040-00004
Background and objective: the practice of hiding medicines in nursing home patients’ food or beverages is described in only a few scientific papers. An earlier study conducted in 1999/2000 showed that covert medication was common in Norwegian nursing homes, with 11% of patients in regular nursing home units (RUs) and 17% of those in special care units for patients with dementia (SCUs) receiving at least one covert medication during the last 7 days. However, that study included few details about the medications involved. Therefore, we designed a study to obtain more detailed information about the practice of covert medication. The objectives of the study were to describe how widespread the practice is, identify the reasons for giving the medicine in disguise, determine what kinds of medicine are given in disguise, and establish who makes the decision about covert medication. We collected data on 1943 patients (623 in SCUs and 1320 in RUs) in southeast Norway between October 2006 and February 2007. The information collected included what kind of drugs the patients received, what form the drugs were administered in and how the drugs were given. Patient characteristics such as age, sex, the patient’s level of function in terms of activities of daily living (ADL), mental capacity and behavioural and psychological symptoms were also recorded. Ward characteristics such as the type of ward, the number of beds in the ward and the number of carers working on each shift were also documented. Descriptive statistics of the distribution of covert medication were obtained and the findings from SCUs and RUs were compared. The same approach was taken regarding information relating to who took the decision and how the practice was documented. A multilevel logistic regression analysis was performed to examine which patient and ward characteristics were associated with covert medication. Each patient was given on average 6.5 different medications on a regular basis every day. Nearly a quarter (23.5%) of patients who received medications had drugs mixed in food or beverages. Fourteen percent of the patients in SCUs and nearly 10% of the patients in RUs received medicine blended in food or beverages without their knowledge (covert medication). Compared with patients who were treated openly, a significantly higher proportion of patients who were treated covertly received antipsychotics (20% vs 30%, respectively; p < 0.001). In most cases, the decision to administer covert medication was made by the staff together with the physician or by the physician alone (61.4% of occasions in SCUs and 52.8% in RUs). About two-thirds of cases of covert medication had been documented to some extent in the patients’ records. Low mental capacity, low ADL function and the presence of agitation and learning disability were associated with covert medication. Of the ward characteristics, only staying in SCUs was associated with covert medication. Our study presents evidence suggesting that the practice of covert medication may still be a problem in Norwegian nursing homes. The frequency of this practice has been only slightly reduced in the period 2000–7, but the practice is more frequently recorded in the patient’s records and the physician is today more often involved in the decision to give medicine covertly compared with 7 years ago.
Artikkelen beskriver en studie hvor hensikten var å kartlegge skjult medisinering i sykehjem. Artikkelen beskriver hvor utbredt skjult medisinering er, hvilke legemidler som gis på denne måten, hva som er årsaken til denne praksisen, samt hvem som beslutter at legemidler gis skjult.