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Overuse of Antibiotics in Nursing Homes

Published on Nov 12, 2014 at 7:51 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

I’ve written before about nursing homes that over prescribe painkillers and mood altering drugs to control and sedate their residents. Now it turns out that regular antibiotics are also being overused – and the US government is trying to do something about it.

The White House has issued an Executive Order addressing the problem of over-exposure to antibiotics. Nursing homes aren’t the only ones over prescribing. Doctors and hospitals are part of the problem as well.

Overdosing of Antibiotics

However, nursing homes deserve special focus. It’s estimated that about 250,000 nursing home residents suffer at least one infection per year, and nearly 2/3 of all residents will be prescribed every year. The most common infections in nursing homes are urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and skin infections like bedsores.

According to the Centers of Disease Control, the issue is not academic. The CDC reports that 25 – 75% of the nursing home antibiotic prescriptions are not appropriate. Overuse leads to the development of infections, and resistance to antibiotics. Over 25,000 nursing home residents will develop an antibiotic-resistant infection, and many will die from those infections.

Treating the Root Cause of Infections

The good news is that many of the underlying causes of common nursing home infections can be prevented. This initiative could turn out to be a great opportunity for nursing homes to rethink how they provide care. The answer may lie in paying more attention to individual residents – and it may not have to increase costs because of the savings that could come from such a change.

For example, the use of catheters is a primary cause of urinary tract infections. The CDC has already suggested that nursing homes should reduce catheter use. Reducing catheter use and go hand-in-hand with keeping patients dry, which can prevent bedsores.

If caregivers can get to know when a resident needs to go to the bathroom, and make sure that adult diapers are changed quickly, there will be less time taken up to change bed sheets, less time cleaning up the resident, and less need for use of catheters.

The Executive Order forms a task force to reduce antibiotic use in medicine as well as in farming practices. Nursing homes will be required to create Antibiotic Stewardship Programs that monitor and report antibiotic use. The goal is also to reduce indiscriminate use of antibiotics when they’re not needed, or powerful broad-spectrum antibiotics are used when more targeted drugs are available.