Growing old in Ontario may be bad for your health. Forget about the golden years — if you live long enough and have to move into one of the province’s nursing homes, you might be looking at the drugged-up years.
That’s the disturbing message from a new Ontario Ministry of Health study into the overuse of medication in the province’s nursing homes. And it poses a question the government and people of this province must answer: How will we do better for those who have given much to our society and now need a great deal from us in return? A more detailed and specific plan of action from Health Minister Deb Matthews would be a good place to start.
According to the new report, extremely high numbers of Ontario’s nursing home residents are being given sedatives and antipsychotic drugs, often at the same time. Even more disconcerting is the news that the practice can be dangerous and result in severe, even fatal, consequences. And amazingly, the antipsychotic medications that are being used, including olanzapine, quetiapine and at least 10 others, are not approved by Health Canada for elderly people with dementia.
The report discovered 45 percent of all Ontario nursing home residents aged 65 to 79 are being administered antipsychotic drugs. Moreover, 30 percent of residents in that age group are receiving sedatives.
Answers will be hard to come by. But in a province where a growing percentage of the population is elderly, we have to start trying.