National Public Radio Correspondent Ina Jaffe, who covers the aging beat, recently took a deep dive into the issue of overmedicating elderly nursing home residents in a three-part series.
The first installment sets the stage with the story of a California woman with Alzheimer’s who was given powerful antipsychotic drugs because she was making too much noise.
The second installment chronicles the deadly risks of giving antipsychotic drugs to older people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Heightened concerns about off-label uses of the drugs prompted the federal government to start a campaign in 2012 to get nursing homes to reduce their use. But the NPR analysis shows that the government rarely penalizes nursing homes when they don't get with the program.
In the third installment, Jaffe goes to Ecumen Pathstone Living in Mankato, Minn., to offer an example of how people with dementia can have a much higher quality of life when activities and other therapies are used in place of highly sedating drugs. She documents the overwhelming success of the Ecumen Awakenings™ program, a nationally acclaimed approach to dementia care used in all Ecumen nursing homes. “It seems residents can always find something to do around here,” Jaffee reports. “That can help to relieve the agitation common in some people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia — agitation that in other nursing homes might be managed with antipsychotic drugs.”
For more information on the nationally acclaimed Ecumen Awakenings program, go to EcumenAwakenings.org. Ecumen is one of the nation’s top 20 largest non-profit providers of senior housing and aging services. Based in Shoreview, Minn., Ecumen operates in 38 cities in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Idaho and Tennessee, providing a variety of senior housing options and services including independent living, assisted living and long-term care communities as well as at-home and community-based services. Dedicated to empowering individuals to lead richer, fuller lives, Ecumen prides itself on innovation and radically changing the way aging is viewed and understood.