Objectives: Aging is associated with sleep problems, which are common among assisted living (AL) residents. More than 40% of residents have insomnia, and almost 70% have a sleep disturbance of some kind. Melatonin to treat sleep disorders has become common among older adults, but its use in AL is unknown, which is concerning because melatonin may have side effects and interfere with other medications. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence and correlates of melatonin prescribing in AL, to inform whether changes in care may be indicated.
Design: Cross-sectional chart abstracts and interviews.
Settings and participants: Data were collected in 250 randomly selected AL communities among 5777 residents across 7 states in the United States and weighted to an estimated 4043 communities and 152,719 residents.
Methods: Charts of residents were abstracted, and AL administrators and health care supervisors were interviewed to obtain information related to case-mix, staffing, and attitudes regarding psychoactive medications. Weighted analyses primarily examined the association of melatonin prescribing with community- and resident-level characteristics.
Results: Melatonin was prescribed in 82% of communities, more commonly in those that had a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse on site (+7%, P = .027), and whose health care supervisor was more favorable toward nonpharmacologic practices (+18%, P = .010). On average, 9% of residents were prescribed melatonin, with prescriptions being more common among those diagnosed with dementia (+24%, P = .004); a psychiatric disorder, especially an anxiety disorder (+43%, P = .007); having behavioral expressions; and taking other psychotropics. Coprescribing was common, especially with antidepressants (OR 2.64, 95% CI 1.99, 3.48; P < .001). Conclusions and implications: This study is the first to examine melatonin prescribing in AL, and finds it to be common. Such use may be appropriate if it is as a more suitable replacement for hypnotics. The fact that use varies by organizational characteristics suggests practices may be modifiable. Research examining benefits and side effects of melatonin, overall and in relation to other medications, is indicated to promote better care for AL residents.