Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Nursing homes are seeking to end the stupor

[Editor Flahiff’s note: I remember visiting my great aunt in a nursing home in the early 70’s (I was in my late teens) I found the stupor among the residents very sad…this story was very refreshing to read…

My husband can attest to the importance of personal attention…he is retired and goes to senior centers daily for lunch and the “pool halls”. He makes it a point to visit with those sitting alone at lunch…and has brought a number of folks out their shells during the past few years]

Instead of treating behavioral problems with antipsychotic drugs, the Ecumen chain of 15 homes is using strategies including aromatherapy, massage, music, games, exercise and good talk. The state is helping out.

From the December 4th Star Tribune article by Warren Wolfe (via a NetGold Posting by David P Dillard )

The aged woman had stopped biting aides and hitting other residents. That was the good news.

But in the North Shore nursing home‘s efforts to achieve peace, she and many other residents were drugged into a stupor — sleepy, lethargic, with little interest in food, activities and other people.

“You see that in just about any nursing home,” said Eva Lanigan, a nurse and resident care coordinator at Sunrise Home in Two Harbors, Minn. “But what kind of quality of life is that?”

Working with a psychiatrist and a pharmacist, Lanigan started a project last year to find other ways to ease the yelling, moaning, crying, spitting, biting and other disruptive behavior that sometimes accompany dementia.

They wanted to replace drugs with aromatherapy, massage, games, exercise, personal attention, better pain control and other techniques. The entire staff was trained and encouraged to interact with residents with dementia.

Within six months, they eliminated antipsychotic drugs and cut the use of antidepressants by half. The result, Lanigan said: “The chaos level is down, but the noise is up — the noise of people laughing, talking, much more engaged with life. It’s amazing.”…

….Medicare spends more than $5 billion a year on those [antipsychotic] drugs for its beneficiaries, including about 30 percent of nursing home residents. Several studies have concluded that more than half are prescribed inappropriately. The drugs are especially hazardous to older people, raising the risk of strokes, pneumonia, confusion, falls, diabetes and hospitalization….

….

Instead of looking for causes of disruptive behavior among dementia patients, doctors typically prescribe drugs to mask the symptoms, he said, because “It’s the easy thing to do. … That’s true in hospitals, in clinics and in nursing homes.”

Federal regulators are cracking down on homes that don’t routinely reassess residents on psychotropic drugs. But use remains widespread….

December 6, 2010 - Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , , , , , , ,

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