By CBS News investigative producer Laura Strickler
NEW YORK - A new government report by the Health and Human Services Inspector General found that 88 percent of the time Medicare paid for antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes the drugs went to patients with dementia, even though the FDA issued a severe warning saying the drugs should not be used on patients with dementia because of a risk of sudden death.
Moving a loved one with dementia into a nursing home can be extremely stressful for both the patient and family members. Experts say this is often when nursing home residents can become agitated and upset. This can lead to patients being prescribed powerful antipsychotic drugs.
Dr. Kenneth Brubaker, a nursing home medical director from Pennsylvania and board member of the American Medical Directors Association for long term care facilities says nursing homes sometimes resort to drugs because of high staff turnover and lack of training. He offers tips for family members who are working with their loved ones to make the transition to a nursing home:
- Dr. Brubaker says it's appropriate to ask nursing homes what percentage of patients are on antipsychotic drugs. In addition, he says families should ask what kinds of non-medicinal strategies the staff employs when a resident becomes agitated.
- Brubaker suggests that family members should also ask if they would be able to stay in the same room as their family member for a few weeks while they become adjusted to their new surroundings. He says if the nursing home resists this request then that should be a red flag to the family.
- He also suggests asking the facility if they have an ongoing continuing education program for the staff to educate them about dealing with dementia.
- Brubaker adds, "I want to emphasize I think its extremely important that the family members become a part of the care team, family members really know as much if not more about their loved ones than anyone else does so they often times can have answers as to why there is aggressive behavior."