Be proactive about overuse and misuse of antibiotics in nursing homes

Prescription Drugs

By pH health care professionals

Approximately 4.1 million Americans are admitted to or reside in nursing homes and long-term care facilities each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Although there are many health challenges these residents face, one of them is risk for infections, due to their age and disability. Unfortunately, the overuse and sometimes inappropriate use of antibiotics to treat suspected infections has led to antibiotic resistance, making the drugs less effective and complicating treatment.

 Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed medications in nursing homes, with an estimated 70 percent of nursing homes and long-term care residents receiving antibiotics every year, the CDC reported, and studies have shown that up to 75 percent of antibiotics prescribed in nursing homes may be given incorrectly, meaning either the drug is unnecessary or the prescription is for the wrong drug, dose or duration.

Overuse of antibiotics in nursing homes can lead to antibiotic resistance, adverse reactions, drug allergies and secondary infections from overgrowth of organisms (such as Clostridium difficile and Candida albicans), according to the Annals of Long-Term Care. Antibiotic resistance causes drugs to be less effective at curing or preventing infections. The bacteria that are supposed to be killed survive and continue to multiply, causing more harm.

So how can you be proactive?

Antibiotic stewardship should be a shared strategy and concern of not only health care workers, but also patients and their families. Family members and patients should be aware that more antibiotic use is not always better, and should ask their doctor to make sure the treatments are needed, chosen appropriately and prescribed for the necessary length of time.

If you or someone you love is residing in a nursing home or long-term care center, ask questions about the facility’s current policies and procedures regarding antibiotic stewardship. Show them this article or the CDC recommendations.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities should be mindful of the following:

  1. Nursing home administrators should have clear policies and practices to ensure their residents are not given antibiotics unless they are needed.
  2. Doctors should choose antibiotics wisely and thoughtfully to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.
  3. Test, don’t guess. It may be helpful for nursing home doctors to obtain microbiology cultures prior to starting antibiotics when possible, so antibiotics can be adjusted or stopped when appropriate.
  4. Ensure use is appropriate. Antibiotics should be only used for as long as they are needed to treat infections, minimize the risk of relapse, or control active risk to others. Antibiotics are not indicated for treatment of viral infections, such as a cold, influenza or viral gastroenteritis.

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The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.