A recent article, titled “Anemia in Nursing Homes: A Complex Issue,” was published in the Journal of American Medical Directors and studied the nature of anemia in skilled nursing facilities, including its causes and treatments. The article cited iron deficiency, protein malnutrition, frailty, and weight loss as some causes for anemia. In caring for anemic residents, the nursing home staff needs to be cautious because this condition not only leads to decreased muscle strength, mobile impairment, and an increased risk for falls, but is also very tricky to treat.
The study aimed to disprove the common misconception that taking a high dosage of iron, up to 200 milligrams daily, is a simple way to overcome anemia. Participants were divided into three groups, each taking a different dosage of iron daily. One group took 15 milligrams, the second took 50 milligrams, and the third group took 150 milligrams. The study was conducted over two months. At the conclusion, the researchers determined that regardless of the dosage amount, each group experienced the same increase in iron levels.
Ultimately, we can take from this study that in caring for our loved ones, it is best to maintain all medications at the lowest dosage possible. In the case of anemic patients, those who were taking a higher dosage of iron experienced side effects, including abdominal pain. They were also less likely to adhere to their prescription, taking only portions of their medication, rather than the entire dosage. The study asserted that a dosage as low as 30 milligrams is sufficient in effectively treating anemia. It was also noted that since iron interferes with the absorption of other drugs, it should not be taken in conjunction with other medications.
In order to best assure your loved one’s health, regular check-ups and updates to his or her medication prescriptions are recommended. Furthermore, proper documentation and updated records must be kept in an orderly fashion, so that current physicians can be aware of the patient’s medical history, as well as medications that the patient is currently taking, or has taken in the past. Keeping organized records of a patient’s medical history also facilitates physicians in lowering dosages, when possible, as the patient’s condition is treated and his or her health improves. Organization of medical charts has a significant impact on keeping your loved one’s drug intake to a minimum.
Often, disorganization and lack of documentation in skilled nursing facilities is a result of understaffing. When nurses are assigned too many duties and responsibilities, they tend to overlook or skip certain steps in the caretaking process that they deem unimportant. However, it is the responsibility of the skilled nursing facility to employ a sufficient amount of staff and ensure that every measure is being taken to maintain the highest practicable health and well-being of the residents.
Carelessness and improper documentation of prescribed drugs can lead to overdoses, adverse drug reactions (ADRs), and sometimes even death. In addition to monitoring your loved one’s iron intake, other drugs that are commonly abused or misused in nursing homes are antipsychotics. Drugs that are improperly used are considered chemical restraints. The use of restraints is both a threat to your loved one’s physical and mental well-being and a direct violation of the Patients Bill of Rights.
If you feel that your loved one’s skilled nursing facility is failing to use drugs safely, contact us today to see how we can help before his or her health is further threatened.