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Behavioral emergency in the elderly: a descriptive study of patients referred to an Aggression Response Team in an acute hospital

Authors Simpkins D, Peisah C, Boyatzis I

Received 4 July 2016

Accepted for publication 9 September 2016

Published 31 October 2016 Volume 2016:11 Pages 1559—1565


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker

Daniel Simpkins,1 Carmelle Peisah,2,3 Irene Boyatzis1

1Division of Rehabilitation and Aged Care, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital, 2School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, 3Discipline of Psychiatry, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Aim: The management of severely agitated elderly patients is not easy, and limited guidelines are available to assist practitioners. At a Sydney hospital, an Aggression Response Team (ART) comprising clinical and security staff can be alerted when a staff member has safety concerns. Our aims were to describe the patient population referred for ART calls, reasons for and interventions during ART calls, and complications following them.
Methods: Patients 65 years and older referred for ART calls in the emergency department or wards during 2014 were identified using the Incident Information Management System database and medical records were reviewed. Demographic and clinical data were collected.
Results: Of 43 elderly patients with ART calls, 30 had repeat ART calls. Thirty-one patients (72%) had underlying dementia, and 22 (51%) were agitated at the time of admission. The main reasons for ART calls were wandering and physical aggression. Pharmacological sedation was used in 88% of the ART calls, with a range of psychotropics, doses, and routes of administration, including intravenous (19%) and, most commonly, midazolam (53%). Complications were documented in 14% of cases where sedation was used.
Conclusion: We observed a high frequency of pharmacological sedation among the severely agitated elderly, with significant variance in the choice and dose of sedation and a high rate of complications arising from sedation, which may be an underestimate given the lack of post-sedation monitoring. We recommend the development of guidelines on the management of behavioral emergency in the elderly patients, including de-escalation strategies and standardized psychotropic guidelines.

Keywords: aged, aggression, delirium, dementia, antipsychotic agents, benzodiazepines

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