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Medicare Reimbursement Issue Leads to More Falls in Nursing Homes

sedativeRecently, Medicare stopped reimbursing nursing home residents for benzodiazepine, a common sedative used in nursing homes to aid in sleep and decrease anxiety levels of some residents.  Benzodiazepines are also often referred to as Valium or Xanax and are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States.  Beyond treatment for insomnia and anxiety, these sedatives are also used for muscle relaxation, seizure control, and are sometimes given before surgery to calm nerves.  Because of their many uses, benzodiazepine prescriptions had always been reimbursed by Medicare, and studies are now showing that the use of these sedatives have gone down significantly in nursing homes now that Medicare has stopped reimbursing for them.

While decreased usage of a prescription is always expected when reimbursement stops and prices increase, what was not expected was the increase in falls and injury, which critics are saying directly correlates with this new lack of sedative usage in nursing homes.  Many feel that nursing home residents who regularly received benzodiazepines for their ailments tended to have limited to minor activities of daily living, which meant they were at risk for minor falls.  Patients not receiving sedatives, on the other hand, are often more active and agile, which could lead to a higher level of fall severity.  It is inferred, therefor, that many patients who have lost Medicare reimbursement for benzodiazepines have fallen more than before because they are more active.

This leads to an interesting debate regarding which is the lesser of the two evils.  While the rate of falls has increased, it is clear that residents on sedatives are not able to be as active as their non-medicated counterparts.  So the big question on everybody’s mind is simple: are these sedatives a good thing because they help residents sleep and manage anxiety and limit falls, or are they a bad thing because they limit daily activity?

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About the Author
Ellen grew up on the east coast and spent 10 years working in senior homes during her 20's and 30's before taking a break to raise her 3 children. Now that her children are in college, Ellen uses her knowledge of senior care to help her write about all of the latest industry news. Ellen is a fabulous seamstress, and when not writing about the senior care industry, you can find her sewing away on her latest fashion creation. Ellen tagged this post with: , Read 52 articles by
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