A large number of the individuals in skilled nursing centers are living with some type of dementia. For these individuals and as illness progresses, behavior often becomes a key form of communication. This can be challenging for families and staff, and too often, antipsychotic medication is used in an attempt to modify behavior. The use of antipsychotic medication to treat behavior associated with dementia is not supported clinically and is considered off-label by the FDA, which issued a “black box” warning for the elderly with dementia.
Antipsychotic drugs are expensive, costing hundreds of millions of Medicare dollars. They also increase the risk of death, falls with fractures, hospitalizations and other complications resulting in poor health and high costs.
The intent of the AHCA Quality Initiative goal to safely reduce the off-label use of antipsychotics is to encourage alternative strategies for responding to challenging behavioral expressions in persons living with dementia before considering medications and to ensure that antipsychotic medications, when used, are as appropriate and safe as possible.