Family members, along with doctors, long term care providers, and frontline caregivers, often grapple with the best way to ease a loved one’s behavioral and psychological symptoms. All too often, potent medications are used when non-drug care alternatives should be considered.
At a recent AARP Foundation roundtable discussion in Washington, DC, long term care providers, workers and consumer advocates explored practical behavioral strategies that can be implemented to end the misuse of antipsychotic medications that are used to treat dementia-related symptoms.
Maxine McCarthy, a social worker and member of 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, provided the viewpoint of a frontline nursing home caregiver on the panel of advocates. She discussed a successful care approach that has been implemented through a labor management collaboration between her nursing home employer, Isabella Geriatric Center, and members of her union.
“We make it a priority to get to know our residents and their families deeply. We work together to find out what the resident is trying to communicate through their behavior and what could provide comfort,” said McCarthy. “It can be as complex as assessing pain or possible infection or as simple as knowing their favorite song and when it’s helpful to play it.”
Similar collaborative strategies between 1199SEIU and participating nursing homes in New York City have resulted in better outcomes for residents, their families, and the nursing home workers. The approaches have also dramatically reduced the use of antipsychotic drugs at nursing homes in New York. According to the Medicare Nursing Home Compare website, only 4.6 percent of long-stay residents at Isabella Geriatric Center receive antipsychotic medication; by comparison, the New York statewide average is 12.3 percent and the national average is 15.5 percent.