A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association shows an alarming lack of information about good dementia care, chemical restraints, and non-drug interventions. The study was based on survey information collected from nursing home staff members in Connecticut. Among the discouraging numbers:
– only 18% of nursing home leadership (presumably management employees) and 3% of direct care staff knew that antipsychotic drugs can cause the death of elderly people with dementia.
– only 24% of leadership staff and 12% of RNs could identify one severe adverse effect of antipsychotics.
– only 37% of direct care staff felt they could handle “difficult” residents without using medications.
These numbers show a disturbing lack of education regarding the dangers and ineffectiveness of antipsychotics and non-drug interventions among nursing home employees. This undoubtedly has contributed to the widespread overuse of the drugs to sedate residents who are forced to use behavior as communication when they have lost their ability to effectively communicate verbally.
The study was conducted in June 2011, at the dawn of the nationwide campaign to end the misuse of antipsychotics in nursing homes, so chances are good that today’s nursing home staff are better educated on drugs and dementia care. The availability of cheap, world class dementia care training has proliferated in the past couple of years (Johns Hopkins’ free on-line course, a non-pharmacologic dementia care toolkit, OASIS training, the continuing CANHR/long-term care Ombudsman symposia) Connecting nursing home care providers and their managers with this training is critical to improving dementia care and the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of nursing home residents in this country.