Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Antipsychotic Drug Use Drops Dramatically in Tenn. Nursing Homes


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WMOT) — Tennessee nursing homes have dramatically decreased the use of antipsychotic drug use for residents living with dementia.

Tennessee led the nation for antipsychotic use in nursing homes in the fourth quarter of 2011. By the first quarter of this year the state had dropped to 48th in the nation.

State spokesman Vincent Davis says Tennessee reduced the use of the drugs by conducting training sessions for nursing home staff members. He says part of that training dealt with how to tease out the cause of a patient’s behavior.

“Often you will find that there is some unmet need that the individual with dementia is trying to convey to someone, generally the care giver.”

Davis cites the example of a retired traveling salesman suffering from Alzheimers who routinely became agitated in the early evening. Caregivers finally discovered that it had been his life-long routine to call his wife from the road at exactly 6 p.m. every night. Once the man was allowed to make those nightly calls, he was no longer a problem.

“He did not have those anxieties that he exhibited prior to someone identifying the unmet need that he was having that he could not express and otherwise, therefore, would have been given an antipsychotic medication.”

According to the state Health Department, antipsychotic drugs cost hundreds of millions of Medicare and Medicaid dollars and increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, falls with fractures, hospitalizations and other complications.