Newly released data reveals inappropriate use of antipsychotics in nursing homes

Kay Lazar and Matt Carroll of The Boston Globe have written about nursing homes that use “antipsychotic drugs to control agitation and combative behavior in residents who should not be receiving the powerful sedatives,” a practice that exposes patients to the risk of dangerous side effects.

Their investigation, which included analysis of federal data, found that about “185,000 nursing home residents in the United States received antipsychotics in 2010 contrary to federal nursing home regulators’ recommendations.”

Nursing home regulators have for years collected data about individual homes’ use of antipsychotics but have not publicly released facility-specific information, citing patient privacy concerns. The government finally provided the data to the Globe, 19 months after the newspaper submitted a Freedom of Information Act request.

Part 2 of the project looks at alternatives to sedatives, such as using a circular layout in an Alzheimer’s unit, bringing animals in for contact with residents and learning about patients’ lives before dementia set in so staff can tap into pleasant emotions from the past.

Caring for people with dementia, without relying on antipsychotics, requires nursing home staffers to become detectives, said Paul Raia, vice president of clinical services for the Alzheimer’s Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Read more about that data here and see the Globe‘s searchable national database that lets users compare nursing homes’ use of antipsychotics.

This graphic shows factors associated with the overuse of antipsychotics.

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