February 5, 2019 1:46 pm
Updated: February 5, 2019 4:54 pm

N.B. paves the way in drug reduction for seniors living with dementia

WATCH: A new study has found that New Brunswick seniors living with dementia are weening themselves off antipsychotics. Morganne Campbell has more.

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New Brunswick seniors living with dementia are weening themselves off antipsychotics, according to a collaborative study between the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes and the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement.

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The two-year long study, conducted in all 68 of the province’s nursing homes, saw a reduction of more than half of participating residents using anti-psychotics to treat dementia-related illness.  Those residents were prescribed the drugs without a diagnosis of psychosis and 52 per cent were able to reduce of discontinue the medications.

Those types medications are often used to help manage dementia-related symptoms, but can cause significant side effects that range from confusion to dizziness.

“We are extremely pleased to have played a supporting role with CFHI and the Government of New Brunswick in bringing this innovation opportunity to New Brunswick Nursing Homes,” said Jodi Hall, executive director of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes.

“The nursing home teams fully embraced the process for this care improvement, and we congratulate them on their leadership and staff commitment. It is very exciting to see the residents experience an improved quality of life.”

READ MORE: Experts call for care model in ‘the language of dementia’ after Alzheimer’s run

Pine Grove Nursing Home in Fredericton is one of the homes that took part in the study which took a closer look at why the certain medication was prescribed and what type of therapy or activity could be used in its place, something as simple as exercise, music or even pet therapy which resulted in fewer episodes of aggression and abusive behaviour.

“Staff do find it fulfilling to say that, ‘Oh my gosh, you know, she’s able to do something that she was never able to do before.’ That there’s more, you can engage with them a lot more, so I think that’s the fulfilling part,” explains Monique Comeau, a registered nurse at Pine Grove.

“It’s a great way for New Brunswick to brand itself as being at the cutting edge of new research and new approaches to care.”

READ MORE: Depression or young onset dementia? Here’s how to tell the difference

And the benefits have been far reaching, especially on a system that already has its challenges.

“You also see other benefits because there’s decreased infections we have less falls and the individual is not at the same risk for stroke which when someone, a frail elderly person takes an anti-psychotic these are risk factors that come with it,” adds Hall.

More than 80 per cent of program participants lived with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Those residents showed the ability to be able to eat independently and were more wakeful.

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