Harming Nursing Home Patients With Antibiotics?


Antibiotics are for serious infections. Unfortunately, these drugs have been misused and incorrectly prescribed in nursing homes. This is alarming, and My Elder believes that appropriate measures should be put in place.


The CDC disclosed that most nursing homes prescribe antibiotics the wrong way 40% to 75% of the time, and this comes back with strong consequences on the aging folks taking them.

The federal health watchdog listed – wrong drugs, wrong dose, wrong duration, unnecessary prescriptions, and others as bad for patients in nursing homes.

It is a common misconception to think that antibiotics should be taken to treat everyday ailments such as the flu or common cold; however, these are viruses and antibiotics are only meant to treat serious infections.

The truth is, every time someone takes an antibiotic, sensitive bacteria are killed, but antibiotic-resistant bacteria survive, multiply, and can spread to others. Additionally, antibiotics wipe out all of the body’s bacteria including good infection-fighting bacteria.

The more antibiotics are misused and overused, the more bacterial resistance to these antibiotics will increase and eventually the same antibiotics won’t be able to fight off the same infection as effectively. Some antibiotics may even cause harmful life-threatening illnesses or reactions on their own.

Antibiotics are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in nursing homes. In nursing homes, high rates of antibiotics are prescribed to prevent urinary tract infection (UTI) and respiratory tract infection (RTI). Prescribing antibiotics before there is an infection often contributes to misuse Often residents are given antibiotics just because they are colonized with (carrying) bacteria that are not making the person sick.

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Prescribing antibiotics for colonization contributes to antibiotic overuse. When patients are transferred between facilities, for example from a nursing home to a hospital, poor communication between facilities about prescribed antibiotics (e.g., rationale, number of days) plus insufficient infection control practices can result in antibiotic misuse and the spread of antibiotic resistance.

Health care facilities already have infection control procedures in place, such as providing private rooms and toilets for infected individuals. But the CDC is pushing them to do more on the prescribing side, advising nursing homes to track how many and what antibiotics they prescribe monthly and what the outcomes were for patients, including any side effects. Other recommendations include placing someone, such as a consulting doctor or a pharmacist, in charge of antibiotics policies and training other staff in following them.

My Elder provides elder advocacy services to families. Talk to us about long-term planning, finding the right home for your loved ones, preventing crisis and abuse, and ensuring they receive the best care possible.