Approximately 25,000 nursing home residents in Maine suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Although most are treated with antipsychotic medications, a Waterville skilled nursing facility has reportedly eliminated most antipsychotic drugs from its dementia care regimen with great success. Instead, the Lakewood Nursing Home focuses on meeting the emotional needs of Alzheimer’s disease patients in its care.
According to Vicki Dyer, Program Administrator at the Lakewood Nursing Home, dementia patients often become disoriented, frustrated, or frightened by new people and surroundings. Dyer stated a change in some aspect of a patient’s surroundings is much more effective than a pill in about 90 percent of cases. The trick is apparently to figure out what needs to change. Dyer said residents at the 32-bed facility are allowed to wake on their own schedule, congregate in comfortable common rooms, engage with a number of animals that reside at the home, and eat when they please. In addition, employees at the facility must undergo sensitivity training and are reportedly selected based upon their demeanor as well as the way they interact with residents.
Dyer reportedly believes many drugs that are prescribed to dementia disorder patients leave them combative or in a medicated stupor. She said antipsychotic drugs can lower the quality of life for many nursing home residents. Experts apparently agree with Dyer. A 2005 Food and Drug Administration report cautioned against the use of antipsychotics in the elderly due to potential side effects such as heart failure, pneumonia, and death. A 2011 Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services report claims that nearly one-fourth of elderly Americans are prescribed antipsychotic drugs in violation of federal standards.
The United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has purportedly asked nursing homes to reduce the rate at which antipsychotics are prescribed to seniors by at least 15 percent. According to CMS, about one-quarter of nursing home residents in Maine and across the nation were prescribed at least one antipsychotic drug last year. The rate at which Maine dementia patients receive such drugs reportedly varies by facility.
Many Maine families turn to nursing homes when their loved ones are no longer able to care for themselves. Sadly, some skilled nursing facility patients may experience over-medication, broken bones, bedsores, verbal abuse, theft, and other abuse. Additionally, long-term care facility residents may suffer simple neglect. The State of Maine has established special procedures for bringing a negligence or abuse claim against a nursing home or other health care facility. If you believe a friend or family member was the victim of abuse or neglect at the hands of someone tasked with providing their care, you are advised to contact a quality nursing home neglect attorney to discuss your concerns.
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