Study: Nursing Homes Are Medicating Dementia Incorrectly

It can sometimes feel like a big, scary and emotional risk to put a loved one in a nursing home facility. Sure, it might have become too difficult or impossible to care for a sick or aging family member without around-the-clock help, but it is still a courageous step to entrust them to the care of strangers, even if they are supposedly medical professionals.

Those strangers become those responsible for the everyday needs of our loved ones. A common medical issue that nursing home residents suffer from is dementia. The ailment can come from old age or from different illnesses. No matter why a patient lives with dementia, it is important that medication errors and nursing home negligence do not cause them further harm.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, nursing homes across the country are improperly medicating patients who have dementia. Facility workers are giving patients antipsychotic drugs that are specifically approved for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved using those drugs for the treatment of dementia. So why, based on the CMS report, were an estimated 40 percent of patients with dementia being treated with antipsychotic drugs in 2010? It certainly wasn’t because research has shown such treatment to be in the best interest of the residents.

CMS recently announced the beginning of a joint effort involving federal and state partners, caregivers, nursing homes and other safety advocates to reduce the reliance on antipsychotic drugs within nursing homes. Not only should the drugs be saved for patients who provably can benefit from the medication, but patients should not get more of the medication than the recommended dose.

The initiative is called Partnership to Improve Dementia Care and will hopefully prevent medication errors and create a safer environment for all nursing home residents.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Medicare trying to curb overuse of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes,” David Sell, June 1, 2012