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Connecticut’s nursing home care tends to rank higher than average, but facilities are continuously improving.

Over the past month, the New Haven Register highlighted one such effort: To reduce antipsychotic usage in nursing homes.

For some background, new-generation antipsychotics, called “atypical antipsychotics,” have been prescribed off-label to treat dementia and schizophrenia. However, the FDA pointed out that these drugs, such as Risperdal, Zyprexa, Abilify, Seroquel, and Geodon, have potentially fatal side effects for those with dementia. This class of drugs – one of the most popular on the market – has further been associated with increased diabetes and stroke risks and severe muscle stiffness, such as neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) and tardive dyskinesia.

As the publication pointed out, Connecticut homes reduced the amount of antipsychotics administered to the elderly by 21.6 percent. The state still prescribes them higher than average, but made a greater effort to lessen their usage. Nationally, nursing facilities are striving to reach a 25-percent reduction by 2015.

As the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) pushes to lessen antipsychotic prescriptions to the elderly, it has other efforts that are being monitored. One is adding adequate sprinkler systems to all nursing homes.

The 2003 fire at a Hartford nursing home, an incident resulting in 16 fatalities, spurred this move. This nursing facility wasn’t equipped with a sufficient sprinkler system to stop the blaze from a mattress set on fire. As part of this recent effort, Connecticut spent $270,000 on upgrading homes’ sprinklers.

However, as TribLive points out, the deadline for all homes to comply with CMS’s recommendation ended in August 2013. More than a year later, 385 facilities in 39 states, covering 52,000 patients, are not equipped with this essential fire safety system.