Three in Four Antibiotics Prescriptions in Nursing Homes are Incorrect
Antibiotics are some of the most frequently prescribed medications in nursing homes. This practice is drawing increased scrutiny from health officials who are worried about the jump in sometimes deadly drug resistant infections due to overuse and improper dispensing of high risk medications to the elderly.
Close to 70 percent of nursing home residents receive one or more prescriptions for antibiotics every year for pneumonia, urinary tract infections, cellulitis and other infections. Up to 75 percent of those prescribed antibiotics are given improperly, whether for the incorrect dose or duration or even the wrong drug.
According to researchers, misdiagnosed urinary tract infections are prime suspects in prescription overuse. According to one study, only up to one third of all nursing home residents diagnosed with a urinary tract infection exhibit actual symptoms of the infection. Most only present vague symptoms that do not lead to an infection.
Antibiotic overuse can lead to drug resistant bacteria that can easily spread throughout a nursing home and harm elderly patients, making it challenging or impossible for doctors to treat. This dangerous bacterium can also cause drug interaction issues and diarrhea.
Curbing the practice, however has proven to be a difficult task. Because nursing home residents are more vulnerable to infections and may not be able to communicate well with doctors and nurses, physicians may not want to wait to prescribe antibiotics. In addition, nursing home employee turnover is typically high and nurses may be working with doctors who are not on site to prescribe medication.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recommended new changes recently to keep tabs on and stop the improper antibiotic usage. The CDC also put out guidelines in September to guide nursing homes in the implementation of better antibiotic practices.