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New Brunswick program aims to curb overuse of anti-psychotics in seniors

The province has been earmarked for the funding because the use of anti-psychotic medication among seniors in New Brunswick is two times higher than the rest of Canada.

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The New Brunswick government, in collaboration with Ottawa and the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes (NBANH), has launched a $1.1-million funding program aimed at curbing the number of anti-psychotics prescribed to seniors in a province with one of the highest rates of anti-psychotic use among the elderly.

The Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI) and the NBANH say the million-dollar initiative will initially focus on improving – and better identifying – non-pharmaceutical, dementia-related care for patients in 15 New Brunswick nursing homes, with the goal to roll it out to every elder-care facility by the end of 2017.

The province has been earmarked by the CFHI, a not-for-profit organization funded by Health Canada, because the use of anti-psychotic medication among seniors in New Brunswick is two times higher than in the rest of Canada, a scenario exacerbated by the fact that the province's population is aging faster than that of the rest of Canada. (By 2020, forecasts suggest that New Brunswick's population will be five years older than the national average.)

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Currently, about 25 per cent of New Brunswick seniors on anti-psychotics are taking drugs without a proper diagnosis of dementia, the CFHI says.

"Addressing the issue of healthy aging and care for seniors is a top priority for our government," Social Development Minister Cathy Rogers says. "This important investment … will help improve care for residents in nursing homes diagnosed with dementia and reduce costs to our nursing homes."

The Department of Social Development is providing $100,000 for the first phase of the two-year collaborative, and an additional $500,000 for the second phase. The CFHI is providing $500,000 during the first phase, primarily to support and educate nursing-home practitioners to properly identify non-drug therapies to treat behavioural issues associated with dementia.

The CFHI says one in four residents of long-term care in Canada is taking anti-psychotic medication without a proper diagnosis of psychosis.

"Dementia is a debilitating condition that affects the quality of life of many Canadians and their families," federal Health Minister Jane Philpott says. "This program will help improve the appropriate use of medication to treat seniors and their health."

Editor's note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly said the total funding was $1.1-billion. In fact, it is $1.1-million. This version has been corrected.

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