Texas nursing homes among leaders in reducing use of antipsychotics

Texas is among the leaders in reducing the off-label use of antipsychotic drugs to treat dementia for seniors in long-term care.

A collaboration between the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Service, the Texas Health Care Association and other advocates for the Lone Star State’s senior citizens is working. Texas is outperforming most states, with a 30 percent reduction in the use of antipsychotic medications as of December 2015.

The impact of this success can’t be adequately measured with statistics, but in the quality of life by those affected. And in the last three months of 2015 — the most recent data available — a total of 2,133 individual senior Texans were able to receive the care they needed and not the pills they don’t.

Antipsychotics are medications that work in the brain, helping block certain chemicals that can cause symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations or delusions. Previously, it was thought that these medications were a good way to help alleviate some of the suffering seniors with dementia experience.

However, after using the drugs, trials showed they are not effective for most dementia-related situations. That has led to the national effort, including the state of Texas/THCA partnership, to reduce their use, but it’s hard to change attitudes and perceptions that families and physicians have. Simply put, we have found a better way to care.

A great example of an alternative treatment is the Music and Memory program, which is supported by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Service.

The Music and Memory program is simple and effective. The program trains care professionals in how to set up personalized music playlists, delivered on iPods and other digital devices, for those in their care. These musical favorites tap deep memories not lost to dementia and can bring participants back to life, enabling them to feel like themselves again, to converse, socialize and stay present.

The method is rooted in extensive brain research, and is quite effective in improving quality of life for residents without drugs.

Most nursing home residents who are on antipsychotic medications arrive at the nursing facility already on them. But programs like Music and Memory are helping caregivers reduce the dosage of these medications and ultimately to discontinue their use.

“Texas nursing home operators are already working to raise the bar on quality of care, and these improvements to the Five-Star Quality Rating System are based on measures we are laser-focused on,” Warren said.

For more information about how the CMS Five-Star Quality Rating System may affect skilled nursing facilities in your district, contact Scot Kibbe at skibbe@THCA.org.