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Medication Risk for Elderly in Nursing Homes

Helping Grandmother WalkA study of nursing homes in Ontario, Canada says that the homes regularly put their entire resident populations at risk by overprescribing antibiotics to patients whether they need the drugs or not. The study researched the prescription protocols in 2010 and 2011 of 607 different Ontario nursing homes with a total of 110,000 residents and found a systemic reliance on prescribing antibiotics without genuine need.

Earlier studies suggested that there was significant overprescribing in the nursing home sector of the Canadian health care system with as much as one third to one half of all prescribed drugs being unnecessary or inappropriate. This study, which broke down the 607 homes into antibiotic usage categories–high use, medium use, and low use–confirmed that finding as well as the notion that all residents of a nursing home are at risk for complications from antibiotics whether or not they are taking the drugs.

Nursing homes are incubators for bacteria and pathogens

“Nursing homes with higher use put patients at higher risk,” according to Dr. Nick Daneman, an adjunct scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and lead author of the study. “Unlike other medication classes, which can harm the individual recipient of that medication, antibiotics have the capacity to do harm even beyond the individual that gets the medication.”

Residents in nursing homes are often frail with compromised immune systems. They are also living in close quarters and are tended by staff who move quickly from one sick patient to another.  Infections are also more difficult to diagnose in elderly patients because the range of symptoms is different in younger people.  “The easy solution is just to give a prescription,” according to Dr. Lona Mody of the University of Michigan Medical School.

The circumstances in nursing homes are ripe for the spread of bacteria and pathogens that cause infections. Residents, prescribed or not, found themselves suffering from antibiotic-related diarrhea, clostridium difficile or C. diff, or infections from drug-resistant bacteria.

Dr. Daneman remarked, “It is fascinating that this risk extends both to the residents treated with antibiotics, but also to the residents that never directly received an antibiotic during the study. This makes sense, though, because many of the harms of antibiotics can be transmitted to neighboring and future patients.”

Long Island elder abuse lawyers call for antibiotic stewardship programs

These programs are being seen more in acute care hospitals, but Dr. Daneman thinks it’s a much needed adjunct to the nursing home sector. It would involve a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis and antibiotic prescription to maximize the medication benefits and minimize the harms of needless prescriptions.

He says that “more antibiotic use is not always better, and [patients] should ask their doctor to make sure that the treatments are needed, chosen appropriately, and prescribed for the necessary length of time.”

Filing a Long Island nursing home neglect lawsuit

One of your loved ones may no longer be able to care for themselves and will require the level of long term nursing care that you cannot provide. There are Long Island and New York nursing homes that can provide outstanding services, but some do not meet such lofty standards. The American Association for Justice reports that as many as 90 percent of nursing homes in the U.S. are not sufficiently staffed to provide adequate care to residents.

Equally disturbing is that The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that as many as one in every 20 nursing home residents has been the victim of nursing home abuse or other medical negligence.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries resulting from poor antibiotic stewardship or nursing home neglect, you may be entitled to monetary damages for your past and future medical expenses, lost income, pain, suffering and other intangible losses.

To discuss your legal options with an experienced Long Island personal injury lawyer, contact Edelman, Krasin & Jaye for a free consultation. To learn about our long track record of successful verdicts and settlements involving nursing home abuse on Long Island and in the greater NY metropolitan area, call 1-800-469-7429.