Twin Cities nursing home operator trimming drug use

There’s been intense and broad response to our report on antipsychotics given to nursing home residents.

It’s a common practice. Too common in the view of Ecumen, one of the region’s largest owner/operators of elderly housing including nursing homes.

Antipsychotics are the powerful, mood altering drugs that a nursing home medical director might prescribe to patients when their dementia causes them to act out physically and verbally.

But experts agree the drugs are abused and used too widely on patients who don’t really need them in order to make them more docile and easier to manage given the chronic staffing problems in many nursing homes.

More than a couple colleages here at Minnesota Public Radio and a number of people beyond our walls who heard or read the report had strong personal reactions about a parent and how they’re being treated.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the most pointed reactions, a daughter describing the complications caused by the drugs given to her mother:

By summer of 2009, she ended up in the 8th floor psych ward of a St. Paul hospital being evaluated b/cuz of drugs. I watched her. She couldn’t touch her nose with her index finger. All drugs were removed for evaluation. It was decided she could be given a small amount of Risperdal as needed. I’ve repeatedly stated, I do NOT want My Mom taking a lot of drugs. It’s been a worry. I’ve watched other residents flopped over in their wheel chairs in front of the TV. This is wrong, I’ve thought!

That’s how the folks at Ecumen and elsewhere feel. The drug use remains common, however the movement to change nursing home treatment with, among other things, paying closer attention to the patients and using alternative therapies appears to be gaining ground.

Don’t hesitate to share your experience or your thoughts with The Cities.

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