Practitioner perspectives on working with older patients in opioid agonist treatment (OAT) in Norway
Introduction: Norway has a growing proportion of ageing opioid agonist treatment (OAT) patients, with 37% of the 8100 Norwegian OAT clients over 50 years old. This study aims to explore practitioners’ views and experiences from treatment of ageing OAT patients.
Methods: Data was collected as a series of semi-structured interviews with treatment staff (roles interviewed: doctor, psychologist, social worker, nurse and learning disability nurse). Informants were recruited from three OAT outpatient clinics, one with an urban catchment area and two with a mix of urban and rural. The interviews incorporated questions on patients’ somatic and mental health, strengths and weaknesses of the service for this group and their patients’ quality of life.
Results: Older patients were perceived to be more often stable with less drug use, but also experiencing some key challenges. These include isolation and loneliness impacting quality of life, increasing cognitive issues including memory problems and a range of somatic comorbidities. Informants consistently underlined the patient-staff relationship as important in meeting both the specific challenges of ageing OAT clients and the overall care-control balance implicit in this mode of treatment.
Discussion: OAT practitioners working with older patients identify both potential opportunities created by greater stability (less drug use) but also the increasing age-and-health related challenges. We will by November also have direct patient experiences to fill out our discussion of these practitioner perspectives.