New Program Decreasing Antipsychotic Use In This Minnesota Nursing Home

Antipsychotic drugs, typically used to treat serious mental diseases, are prescribed to nearly 300,000 nursing home residents nationally. The FDA says the drugs can increase the risk of death for people with dementia. Although many nursing homes continue to use antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia, some nursing homes are finding alternative methods to treat residents. Doctors at a nursing home in Minnesota have been able to reduce the use of antipsychotics by 97 percent, far exceeding their initial goal of 20 percent. Doctors started seeing positive changes in residents as the use of antipsychotics dropped. Residents started interacting with each other and people who had not been speaking started speaking again.

How did they do this? A program called Awakenings. The program is designed to address what makes residents unhappy. The head of the Awakenings program says that everyone on the staff is trained to know and understand the residents’ likes, dislikes, and life stories. This way, any staff member can spot a problem behavior. Once the problem is identified, staff can works towards curbing it. Awakenings borrows elements from various techniques, including aromatherapy, white noise, pet therapy and validation. Experts say the key to the success of the program is relieving agitation that is common with people with dementia-something other nursing homes usually manage with antipsychotic drugs.

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