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Northern Health gets fund to reduce use of antipsychotic drugs

To reduce the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medication among dementia patients, Northern Health has received $50,000 from the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement to implement programs at four sites in the region.

To reduce the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medication among dementia patients, Northern Health has received $50,000 from the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement to implement programs at four sites in the region.

Northern Health is among 15 healthcare organizations across Canada taking part in the national initiative.

There are existing programs in place at Northern Health that this project will complement.

One initiative is called PIECES, which stands for physical, intellectual, emotional, capabilities, environmental and social.

"That program is a best practice, a learning and development initiative, that provides an approach to understanding and enhancing care for patients,"said Jonathon Dyck, communications officer for Northern Health. "It takes a holistic approach to common issues, diagnosis and challenges for older persons at risk, including those with aggressive behaviour."

Another program in place is called the gentle persuasive approach that delivers a basic understanding of dementia and how people who have a form of dementia can react under different circumstances. This approach strives for a positive outcome for both the patient and the caregiver.

Details of this funded program and how it will be implemented is yet to be determined, Dyck said.

The foundation provides funding and helps measure the impact these projects will make to patient care and health spending.

At present, one in three long-term care residents in Canada is on antipsychotic medication without a diagnosis of psychosis from a doctor.

Choosing Wisely Canada, an organization with a campaign to help physicians and patients engage in conversations about unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures, has identified the use of antipsychotics to treat behaviourial and psychological symptoms of dementia as common practice.

"The use of antipsychotic medications as a first choice to treat behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia is a practice that can seriously harm patients," Dr. Karen Fruetel, vice-president Canadian Geriatrics Society, a member of Choosing Wisely Canada. "That's why the Canadian Geriatrics Society is encouraging healthcare providers, patients and their caregivers to 'think twice' as part of the Choosing Wisely Canada campaign. We're pleased to see that the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement is supporting teams to make evidence-informed decisions that improve patient care."