The Current

Canadian seniors dangerously overmedicated, advocates call for change

Are seniors - particularly those with dementia - taking too many drugs? There's a growing movement to cut down on the prescriptions written for the elderly. We look into one seniors' residence in Ontario that has done just that with surprising results.

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According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in 2012 nearly two-thirds of senior citizens in Canada were taking five or more prescription drugs. And health advocates are calling for the number of prescriptions used by Canadian seniors to be cut in half by 2020.

Anti-psychotic drugs are commonly used in senior homes to help residents keep calm. But critics say they're often overused. 

Canadian Institute for Health Information research says numbers of medications seniors taking are increasing not decreasing. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

Trinity Village Care Centre. a long-term care facility in Kitchener, Ont., has been trying to address the overuse of medication through a change in philosophy. Trinity Village has developed a program that focuses on strategies and treatments such as dealing with patient behaviour problems with art, music and bingo, instead of using drugs to treat residents with dementia.

And it's not just the residents that are part of the facility's changes, staff are also involved in a training called Virtual Dementia Tour, where staff are challenged by removing senses and being asked to perform common tasks. The exercise is to help empathize with residents and help get a better understanding with what they deal with daily.

Guests in this segment:

Are you concerned with the number of prescription drugs you or your elderly family members are taking?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Shanifa Nasser, Karin Marley and Rana Sowdaey.