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New Program from CMS to Improve Dementia Care & Antipsychotic Drug Use

Seniors with cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s and other dementias are most at risk of suffering Illinois nursing home neglect and abuse. The Chicago nursing home attorneys at our firm work with many families whose seniors were severely injured or even killed after a facility failed to take their unique mental vulnerabilities into account. The neglect takes many forms, from failing to protect residents from one another to allowing wandering and elopement. It goes without saying that failing to account for these vulnerabilities is unacceptable.

Improper restraint of these residents is another problem. Many seniors with dementia are given drugs unnecessary–not to deal with a medical condition but to make them easier to “control.” By drugging a senior into a stupor, some nursing home caregivers are able to avoid the more challenging tasks of providing full care to the resident. These unnecessary medications not only have serious effects on the seniors quality of life, but they are downright dangerous. Many studies have been conducted connecting serious adverse (even fatal) effects of drug use–usually antipsychotic medications–for residents with dementia.

We have a long way to go before all long-term care facilities properly account for the unique challenges faced by residents with dementia.

Seeking to improve the situation, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced a new initiative to address the use of antipsychotic medication in nursing homes. In announcing the new partnership, CMS officials admitted that recent data found that over 17 percent of all nursing homes had residents who received higher than recommended dosing levels.

This percentage is likely on the low end, as many other studies have found even more widespread problems with these prescriptions. For example, one report found that 40 percent of dementia residents were prescribed an antipsychotic without any diagnosis of actual psychosis. In short: too many patients are receiving these drugs. That is where the new CMS initiative comes in. The acting administrator for CMS said that “As part of this effort, our partnership has set an ambitious goal of reducing use of antipsychotics in nursing homes by 15 percent by the end of this year.”

The CMS program is multi-faceted. For example a new training program is being launched which focuses on “patient-centered” care. This care takes quality of life issues into account, instead of simply focusing on control. In addition, there will be new behavioral training for state and federal surveyors, hoping to better identify this form of nursing home neglect and abuse. On top of that, the “Nursing Home Compare” website will soon include data on antipsychotic drug use all facilities, so that families can consider the statistic when making nursing home choices.

This new CMS initiative should be applauded–hopefully it has the intended effect of curbing this widespread problem. Yet, the Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers urge all local families to remain vigilant about the care received by their loved ones at these homes. That includes an understanding of the medications prescribed to your loved ones. It is important to ask questions about the benefit and risks of all drug. Also, be sure to raise concerns if you suspect that a resident is showing mental or functional issues after taking a new medication.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Medication and the Elderly

Minimizing the Use of Restraints in Nursing Homes