Assisted Living Residents and Psychotropic Medications

Prospective residents and actual residents of assisted living communities may take what are known as psychotropic medications. Some individuals move into these types of communities already on prescriptions for psychotropic medications. In other instances, residents of assisted living communities develop conditions that result in their physicians prescribing psychotropic medications. Through this article, you are provided an overview of psychotropic medications, the uses of these drugs, and associated common side effects. 

What Is a Psychotropic Medication?

A psychotropic medication is any drug that affects thoughts, mood, behavior, or perception. Psychotropic medication is something of an umbrella term for a variety of different drugs. 

Types of Psychotropic Medications

There are five types of psychotropic medications in use in the United States today. Each of these will be discussed in greater detail in a moment in this article, including purposes of medications and most commonplace side effects. The five categories of psychotropic medications are:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antianxiety
  • Stimulants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Mood stabilizers

Antidepressant Medications

Antidepressant medications are among the most commonly prescribed types of psychotropic drugs used by residents of assisted living communities. As the moniker advises, these medications are designed for individuals afflicted with depression. 

Three categories of antidepressants are most commonly prescribed to assist individuals with depression, including residents of assisted living communities. These are:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors that are designed to increase the amount of serotonin in a person’s brain. Serotonin is considered a powerful neurotransmitter that regulates an individual’s mood. 

Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors increase the amount of norepinephrine in a person’s brain. Norepinephrine makes an individual feel alert and awake, states that are helpful to a person with depression. 

Bupropion promotes brain activity and is used to treat seasonal affective disorder or SAD. 

The most common side effects associated with antidepressants are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain
  • Sexual problems
  • Tremors
  • Dry mouth 

Antianxiety Medications

Antianxiety medications are used to treat conditions like:

  • Generalized anxiety
  • Associated anxiety-related symptoms
  • Phobias
  • Panic attacks

The most common side effects associated with antianxiety medications are:

  • Nausea
  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Nightmares

Stimulant Medications

Stimulant medications are used to manage unorganized behavior. These medications are designed to assist a person concentrate. They also tend to have a calming effect on individuals who take these types of medications. 

The most frequently occurring side effects of stimulant medications are:

  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss

Antipsychotic Medication

Psychosis describes multiple conditions that affect the mind. They are often indicated by the person becoming separated from their reality and experiencing delusions or hallucinations. 

Antipsychotics can help people with psychosis think more clearly, feel calmer, sleep better, and communicate more effectively.

These drugs are designed to assist individuals suffering from psychosis. Psychosis often is indicated by the person becoming separated from reality and experiencing delusions or hallucinations. Antipsychotics are designed to help people with psychosis:

  • Think more clearly
  • Feel calmer
  • Sleep better
  • Communicate more effectively

Examples of conditions treated by antipsychotic medications include:

  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Eating disorders 

When it comes to antipsychotic medications used in assisted living, the most common side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Upset stomach
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain 

Mood Stabilizing Medications

Mood stabilizers are not designed to “make people feel happier.” Rather, mood stabilizers are designed to assist a person in managing his or her range of emotions. 

The most commonly occurring side effects associated with mood stabilizing drugs are:

  • Upset stomach
  • Drowsiness
  • Weight gain
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Blurry vision
  • Confusion 

Minimizing Complications Associated With Psychotropic Medications

There are precautions that need to be in place in order to reduce the risks of complications. These include:

  • Avoid alcohol and illicit drugs when taking psychotropic medications. Certain combinations can be dangerous or even deadly.
  • Use caution when driving or operating machinery if your medications cause fatigue or drowsiness.
  • Don’t suddenly stop taking your medications. This can make you feel ill and cause severe side effects.
  • If you experience adverse allergic reactions such as fever, rashes, or similar side effects, contact your doctor as soon as possible. 

Special Psychotropic Medication Management Issues for Older Adults

There are some specific considerations to bear in mind when it comes to psychotropic medication management for older adults, like typical residents of an assisted living community. We conclude this article by discussing the primary psychotropic medication management issues for older adults.

First, because older adults oftentimes take multiple medications, they have a higher risk of:

  • Missing a dose
  • Overdosing
  • Negative drug interactions

Second, older adults also tend to be more sensitive to medications. Therefore, ensuring the proper dosage and frequency of psychotropic medications is crucial to managing drug risks for older individuals, including residents of assisted living communities. This underscores the need for consistent and ongoing monitoring of an assisted living resident taking psychotropic medications. Concerns about a possible negative reaction should be reported to a physician at once.