It is not uncommon for the elderly to need the assistance of multiple medications to maintain their health. However, as the number of medications being taken increases, so does the risk involved. A study conducted by the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine finds that incorporating more inter-professional education in nursing home caretakers’ training can help reduce polypharmacy in their facilities. Such discovery is significant when it is taken into account that up to 28 percent of nursing home residents are hospitalized due to adverse drug reactions (ADR). An ADR’s mortality rate is significantly increased when the patient is taking over six medications.
The need to decrease polypharmacy is not only evident in residents’ high rate of hospitalizations, but it is also reflected in the incredible cost created by it. The study cites a cost analysis which proves that for every dollar spent on medications in nursing homes, another dollar and thirty three cents are spent on treating adverse drug reactions. It is abundantly clear that nursing facilities should have a greater interest in reducing polypharmacy in order to increase the quality of care of their residents, and to decrease the cost of care for themselves.
Enhancing communication amongst nurses, doctors, resident’s families, and staff can help them track the resident’s medications, and detect any deterioration due to polypharmacy. This allows for all those involved in the resident’s care to be more fully informed about how they can best help him or her. The study also suggests that hand counting all medications prescribed to patients from the physician’s order sheet is a more reliable way to avoid any mistakes from using an electronic log. Although this may seem more time consuming for pharmacists, it reduces the time spent on having to solve adverse drug reactions resulting from negative drug interactions later. Additionally, minimizing the number of medications prescribed also reduces medication administration time, which allows staff more time to dedicate to providing proper care and attention to each resident. Furthermore, a resident that is less medicated has a decreased risk for falls, weight-loss, and even death.
This new information-based initiative is simple and can only be made possible through the cooperation of pharmacists and nursing home staff. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA) included a clause which demands that all certified nursing homes have pharmacy services available on location at their facilities. Therefore, all certified nursing homes already have an infrastructure of professionals which facilitates the spread of knowledge in order to promote a decrease in polypharmacy. There is also an incentive present for nursing homes to decrease medication use in order to save money and time, and increase the quality of care for their residents. This need to increase the quality of care of their residents should outweigh their desire for convenience. Sedating patients so that fewer staff is needed to care for them is a common practice at many nursing homes that value convenience over their residents’ well-being, and it constitutes a form of elder abuse.
When nursing homes fail to monitor medications properly due to a lack of time or a disruption in their communication, residents suffer the consequences by having to be admitted to the hospital for an adverse drug reaction. Such has been the case in many nursing homes, and many residents have continuously been victimized. Here at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi, we believe that hospitalizations due to polypharmacy cannot be tolerated any longer. If you or your loved one has been the victim of polypharmacy, you are not alone. Our team of highly qualified attorneys is prepared to handle your neglect or elderly abuse case. Call us immediately so that we may work together to put an end to polypharmacy. With offices in both Northern and Southern California, we can help you regardless of what part of the state you reside in.