According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, nursing homes may be over-medicating dementia patients. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School discovered that off-label prescriptions of anti-psychotic drugs were a common practice, not just in one nursing home, but in nearly 100 nursing homes across the state. The anti-psychotic drugs were used to calm down the patients so they were easier to handle.
Researchers did find a way to reduce the problem. The OASIS program provides nursing home professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to care for dementia patients, without having to resort to medication. The researchers pooled data from state-based nursing homes on OASIS intervention. They found that off-label anti-psychotic prescriptions showed a 7% decline. After nine months, they went from 34% to 27%. The researchers concluded that undergoing the OASIS curriculum and training program helped to reduce the number of off-label prescriptions.
To date, this is the largest study conducted to show that it may be possible to reduce anti-psychotic use in nursing homes. Lead researcher Dr. Jennifer Tija explained, “This intervention focused on treating the residents as human begins with needs, not as patients with problems. We don’t medicate babies when they cry or act out, because we assume that they have a need that we need to address. However, when people with dementia are unable to communicate, the current approach medicates them when they have undesirable behaviors.”
The Dangers Of Over-Medicating With Anti-Psychotics
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland found that anti-psychotic drugs may elevate the risk of early death in older patients. The researchers analyzed data from nearly 58,000 Alzheimer’s disease patients between 2005 and 2011. They found that patients who were taking anti-psychotic drugs had a 60% increased risk of early death, compared with those who weren’t taking the drugs.
Treating Dementia Naturally
Alzheimer’s disease effects more than 5 million Americans, and there is no cure. Scientists have been studying possible treatments for years. In 2015, a study confirmed coconut oil as a potential Alzheimer’s treatment. During the study, researchers followed a group of patients with Alzheimer’s. Half of the patients were given 40 ml of extra virgin coconut oil each day. Over time, the researchers observed a ‘statistically significant increase‘ in cognitive ability in patients with severe dementia.
Another natural treatment that has been studied extensively is medical marijuana. A preclinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, found in marijuana) can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins, which is believed to be a key contributor to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. While controversial, many studies have been conducted on both THC and CBD as treatment for dementia patients.
The Importance Of The OASIS Program To Reduce Over-Medicating
Dr. Tija stressed that the staff facilities using the OASIS intervention need to train periodically in order to maintain the reduced rates of off-label anti-psychotic prescription.
“The OASIS program asks nursing staff to create care plans that include what residents can do, shifting away from the model that focuses on what they can’t do,” she said. “This is a fundamental shift in how to think about caring for persons with dementia and we showed that it is effective.”
Learn more in the video below.
JAMA Internal Medicine
Massachusetts Senior Care Foundation
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