Here’s the scoop: According to a CDC report issued in 2015, up to 75% of antibiotics administered to skilled nursing facility (SNF) residents are either unnecessary or prescribed incorrectly in terms of drug, dose or duration.
How can this be?
One cause appears to be overzealous diagnosis of urinary tract infections (UTIs) based solely on confusion or bacteria in urine, according to the Wall Street Journal. Apparently that doesn’t always mean a UTI. And apparently it’s difficult to counter the knee-jerk reaction of prescribing antibiotics in these cases, primarily because of staff turnover, physicians not actually seeing their patients, and patients who may have a hard time describing their symptoms.
Overuse of these drugs is no minor problem. It contributes to the flourishing of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains that are difficult or impossible to treat.
So what can you do to protect loved ones in long-term care from falling prey to antibiotic abuse?
A good place to start is with the facility’s Director of Nursing. Find out what policies are followed to ensure the appropriate use of antibiotics – and if you’re not satisfied with the answer, consider looking elsewhere.
I asked Cheryl Johnson, R.N., Director of Nursing for Care-age of Brookfield, about her facility’s approach to this problem.
“We have in place antibiotic stewardship policies that guide us in the judicious and appropriate use of antibiotics,” she said. “That means using them only when they’re really needed, and then using the right antibiotic at the right dose for the right duration.”
It starts with an accurate diagnosis, she added.
“We are of course in compliance with both CDC and State of Wisconsin recommendations on, for example, identifying specific clinical manifestations that warrant antibiotic use – and, whenever necessary, running additional tests to determine precisely which antibiotic will best treat that particular infection.”
When antibiotics are deemed necessary, don’t hesitate to ask questions. What are your loved one’s symptoms and clinical signs? Why is an antibiotic needed? How soon should relief be expected? And if the symptoms don’t go away, what’s the next step?
“This is a growing problem in our world,” Johnson said. “It’s important for families of nursing-home residents to be aware of the potential for antibiotic misuse, and to educate themselves about the bigger threat of antibiotic-resistant infection.”
For details, visit www.cdc.gov.