CDC Addresses Antibiotic Problems in Nursing Homes

Caregiver helping senior via Shutterstock
Caregiver helping senior via Shutterstock

Here's a sobering public health statistic: Up to 75 percent of nursing home residents are being administered antibiotics incorrectly. That's according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And if you do the math, given that more than four million older adults are being admitted to nursing homes annually, you can quickly assess the size of the problem.

Incorrect prescriptions of dosage, duration and the drug itself -- as well as unnecessary prescriptions given by doctors -- are being cited as the reasons behind the growing problem, which if not contained can lead to a bleak future for continuing antibiotic resistance.

This is particularly important in this elder demographic and setting, as the immune systems of the senior population are not as equipped to deal with a range of serious infections like pneumonia, nosocomial infections (or those acquired in a hospital setting) and Clostridium difficle, otherwise know as C. diff.

In an effort to combat the problem, the CDC is recommending the implementation of Antibiotic Stewardship Programs for Nursing homes, an offshoot from the Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Program. This predecessor initially targeted acute care hospitals, with the goal to optimize antibiotic use in the treatment of infections in a way that achieves patient care and safety. Or put more simply, it helps clinicians focus on what they should prescribe, how much of it, and for how long, in order to produce better outcomes.

The programs have been shown to be cost effective for both hospitals and patients. But most importantly they help reduce the growing rates of antibiotic resistance, while decreasing treatment failures.

In an article by Tech Times, Dr. Nimalie Stone, the CDC's medical epidemiologist for long-term care, suggested that implementing these strategies would help protect against antibiotic-resistant infections.

She recommends for the updated program to be instituted by nursing homes, while suggesting it be done in a "step-wise manner, implementing one or two activities at first, and then gradually adding new strategies from each core element over time."

For more information on this topic, here's the CDC's Core Elements of Antibiotic Stewardship in Nursing Homes.