Program Reduces Use of Anti-Psychotic Drugs

Prescription MedicationsPatients with dementia who sometimes punch and kick other nursing home residents are often given powerful anti-psychotic medications to help them control their behavior.

But the sedative drugs can be dangerous and carry plenty of unwanted and sometimes lethal side effects.

A new study suggests a way to reduce the use of these drugs — by linking nursing home staff with dementia specialists.

A story in the Boston Globe detailed a study done in a small group of nursing homes where staff used twice-monthly video conferences to consult with geriatric specialists. Residents were 17 percent less likely to be prescribed the medications compared to residents not in the program.

The study, done at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Hebrew SeniorLife, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The story said dementia is affecting a large and growing number of older adults and said as a result nursing homes are seeing more patients with problem behavior.

At the same time, the number of doctors going into the field of dementia and elder care is not keeping pace with demand. Videoconferencing is seen as a solution, by linking these specialists, who work in hospitals, to nursing homes where their expertise is badly needed.

One of five nursing home patients in Massachusetts, where the study took place, are on the sedative drugs, the story said.

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