Original Study| Volume 22, ISSUE 1, P124-131.e1, January 2021

Time Trends in Opioid Use by Dementia Severity in Long-Term Care Nursing Home Residents



      Current information on opioid use in nursing home residents, particularly those with dementia, is unknown. We examined the temporal trends in opioid use by dementia severity and the association of dementia severity with opioid use in long-term care nursing home residents.


      Repeated measures cross-sectional study.


      Long-term care nursing homes.


      Using 20% Minimum Data Set (MDS) and Medicare claims from 2011-2017, we included long-term care residents (n = 734,739) from each year who had 120 days of consecutive stay. In a secondary analysis, we included residents who had an emergency department visit for a fracture (n = 12,927).


      Dementia was classified as no, mild, moderate, and severe based on the first MDS assessment each year. In the 120 days of nursing home stay, opioid use was measured as any, prolonged (>90 days), and high-dose (≥90 morphine milligram equivalent dose/day). For residents with a fracture, opioid use was measured within 7 days after emergency department discharge. Association of dementia severity with opioid use was evaluated using logistic regression.


      Overall, any opioid use declined by 8.5% (35.2% to 32.2%, P < .001), prolonged use by 5.0% (14.1% to 13.4%, P < .001), and high-dose by 21.4% (1.4% to 1.1%, P < .001) from 2011 to 2017. Opioid use declined across 4 dementia severity groups. Among residents with fracture, opioid use declined by 9% in mild, 9.5% in moderate, and 12.3% in severe dementia. The odds of receiving any, prolonged, and high-dose opioids decreased with increasing severity of dementia. For example, severe dementia reduced the odds of any [23.5% vs 47.6%; odds ratio (OR) 0.56, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.55-0.57], prolonged (9.8% vs 20.7%; OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.67-0.71), and high-dose (1.0% vs 2.3%; OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.63-0.74) opioids.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Use of opioids declined in nursing home residents from 2011 to 2017, and the use was lower in residents with dementia, possibly reflecting suboptimal pain management in this population.


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