The irresponsible, excessive prescription of antibiotics in nursing homes has led to a huge problem: superbugs, or bacteria that have grown to resist antibiotics, are popping up in nursing homes.
Researchers in the state of Victoria – a group from the Centre for Medicine Use & Safety at Monash University – have put together a paper, based on focus groups and interviews with over 60 doctors, pharmacists and nurses working in 12 nursing homes across the state.
The paper was published on Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia. In it, the researchers are urging for new regulations to be put in place to combat the issue of overusing antibiotics. They're also urging those who want to avoid the risk of catching these superbugs to use home visiting doctors instead, who can be easily accessed online.
The researchers write: “Widespread and inappropriate antibiotic use in residential aged care facilities…is especially concerning given emerging evidence of antibiotic resistance in residential aged-care facilities.”
They also explain that the elderly are more prone to developing superbugs as a result of this practice, putting them at risk of developing infections such as Clostridium difficile, theorized to be a result of an imbalance of bacteria in the gut that could prove fatal.
''If you've got a patient who is frail and who is looking a little bit sick, they can get sicker very fast,'' said David Kong, a researcher that participated in the paper.
''If it was your dad or mum who was sick, you might want them to be given the broadest spectrum antibiotic, but the broadest spectrum antibiotic might not be the most appropriate.''
Some of the nurses in the nursing homes surveyed admitted that they felt overwhelmed by having to balance the management of infections in patience with all the rest of their normal duties.
This is partly what has resulted in the misuse and overprescription in certain antibiotics; other factors include some nurses’ inadequate experience, which leads to poor assessment of infections and treatment.
The nursing homes cited in the paper did not follow national regulations, and had no restrictions on antibiotic use in general.
This could become a very serious problem; if other homes throughout Victoria – and indeed, throughout Australia – practice the same irresponsibility in the administration of antibiotics and dosages to their patients, superbugs and the infections they cause could become far more prevalent.