Brief Report| Volume 19, ISSUE 12, P1129-1132, December 2018

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Educating Nursing Home Staff in Dementia Sensitive Communication: Impact on Antipsychotic Medication Use



      An educational program to enhance communication in nursing home dementia care increased person-centered communication by staff and resulted in reduced resident behavioral symptoms measured as resistiveness to care. The purpose of this analysis was to evaluate effects on resident antipsychotic medication use in participating nursing homes. The National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care set a goal of reducing antipsychotic medications in nursing homes by 15% during the study period.


      A post hoc analysis of Nursing Home Compare data was used to evaluate change in antipsychotic medication rates in nursing homes receiving the communication education versus the corresponding statewide average change.

      Setting and Participants

      Eleven nursing homes participated in a cluster-randomized controlled trial from 2011 to 2013 in one Midwestern state.


      Antipsychotic medication rates were abstracted from Nursing Home Compare data sets. Antipsychotic medication rates were compared for each participating nursing home for the 2 quarters before and the 2 quarters after the communication intervention. To control for other factors supporting reduction in antipsychotic use, changes in the participating nursing homes were compared to the state average change for the corresponding quarters using a 1-sample t test.


      Antipsychotic medication use decreased on average by 4.88 percentage points (22.9%) in participating nursing homes compared to the state average decrease of 0.68 percentage points (2.7%) during the same period (P = .06).


      A clinically meaningful reduction in antipsychotic medication usage occurred in the nursing homes that received communication education. Measurable changes in communication and behavioral symptoms were reflected in reductions in antipsychotic medication usage. Improving staff communication has the potential to reduce inappropriate antipsychotic medication use in long-term care.


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