Birdsong Initiative shows success with reducing antipsychotics

The use of It's Never 2 Late in a Virginia community has helped reduce antipsychotic use by 40%, according to a study.

The Birdsong Initiative was funded by Westminster-Canterbury Foundation board member and run from June to December 2015. There were 31 residents in Westminster-Canterbury's Hoy Nursing Care Center who were given access to It's Never 2 Late touchscreen technology as part of their activity plan. Another 31 residents took part in personalized therapeutic recreation programs that were non-computerized. The groups switched after 12 weeks.

The researchers found reduction of antipsychotic drug doses among 40% of those in the intervention group.

“To see a clinically significant drop in the utilization of these drugs is very exciting and important,” said neuropsychologist Scott Sautter, Ph.D., associate professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School and principal investigator for The Birdsong Initiative. “Antipsychotics can produce side effects such as blurred vision, drowsiness, muscle spasms and even cause diabetes and weight gain. If behavioral episodes can be affected in positive ways and without using what we call ‘pharmaceutical restraints,' it greatly enhances life for those with dementia and opens new possibilities for them.”

Additionally, behavioral episodes and depression levels decreased in the study.

“The Birdsong Initiative was the first in what we plan to be ongoing work with academia to look at new ways to improve aging for individuals and families locally and nationally,” Westminster-Canterbury CEO Ben Unkle said. “We anticipate that future work will look at a wide variety of senior issues with the goal of promoting not only longer, but also better, lives by leveraging the power of staying engaged mentally and physically. Recent research has repeatedly indicated that remaining engaged is the secret sauce to aging optimally.”