Georgia nursing homes have cut their “off-label’’ use of antipsychotic medications by 16 percent, the biggest reduction in the nation, industry officials say.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has pushed for a decrease in the use of antipsychotics in managing dementia patients in nursing homes.
Prescribing these drugs for behavior problems is considered “off-label’’ use, meaning they are being employed in a way that’s different from their FDA-approved purposes. Off-label prescribing is a legal and very common practice.
Yet antipsychotics increase the risk of death, falls with fractures, hospitalizations and other complications for nursing home residents, leading to high medical high costs. Roughly half of Georgia’s nursing home patients have dementia, industry officials say.
Georgia had one of the highest rates of use of antipsychotics in 2011. Only Louisiana and Tennessee exceeded Georgia’s rate of 28.9 percent of patients. The state’s current rate of 24.2 percent is still above the national average of 22.2, according to the nursing home industry, citing CMS statistics. full story
Dianna Massey of Norcross says respite care greatly helped her family when her mother had Alzheimer’s disease.
For years, “she was aggressive and combative,’’ Massey said. Before her mother died four years ago, her father was able to afford respite care – short-term help so the caregiver can have time off.
Concerned about those who cannot afford such care, Massey came to the state Capitol in Atlanta to talk about the importance of help for families who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s.
She joined lawmakers and other officials who spoke to scores of seniors gathered in a cold rain on the Capitol steps, attending a rally against proposed budget cuts in government aging programs.
The cuts in the state Department of Human Services budget include a $2.6 million reduction for community care services in the current fiscal year.
For fiscal 2014, which will begin in July, $484,559 is being cut from Alzheimer’s disease services and respite care. Another $528,871 is being trimmed from Adult Protective Services, which will lead to the elimination of 17 jobs that serve more than 1,700 seniors.
“The few dollars for respite in the budget are critical,’’ Massey told the crowd. “We have to take care of the caregivers.’’ full story
A loved one is having memory problems. Often he is confused about where he is – and he’s having trouble completing familiar tasks.
Is it Alzheimer’s disease?
Currently, neurologists diagnose Alzheimer’s based mainly on clinical symptoms. Added information can come from brain imaging, which tends to be expensive, or analysis of a spinal tap, which can be painful.
Dr. William Hu, an assistant professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, and other scientists have taken steps toward developing a blood test for Alzheimer’s, opening up the possibility of a more affordable, convenient way to identify the disease.
“Though a blood test to identify underlying Alzheimer’s disease is not quite ready for prime time given today’s technology, we now have identified ways to make sure that a test will be reliable,” says Hu.
Early detection of Alzheimer’s can help lead to drug and other treatments that can ease the burden of the disease. And caregivers and patients can be educated about how to lessen the effect of the disease on everyday life.
Here’s a video of a GHN interview with Hu, courtesy of Emory, explaining the research and why it could eventually represent a breakthrough.
A new report ranks Georgia 42nd in the nation for long-term care services for older people and adults with disabilities.
The report — produced by AARP, the Commonwealth Fund and The Scan Foundation — ranked the states and the District of Columbia in 25 categories, including hospitalization of nursing home residents, percentage of patients getting home and community-based services, and the cost of nursing homes.
The rankings follow several other health care measurements that have put the Peach State in the lower half of states.
The study aims for the first time to measure the availability of accessible, affordable and quality long-term services to the elderly and disabled — as well as support for caregivers — in each state, Kaiser Health News reported.
Georgia’s score lagged because of low rankings on measures such as percent of caregivers who usually or always get needed support (47th); the number of people with disabilities allowed by the state to direct their own services (41st); and the number of home health and personal care aides (45th). full story
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