There is a passage near the end of the novel “We Are Not Ourselves” that has the protagonist looking at life from an uncustomary position — as a guest in her former house. After 600-plus pages, the light bulb finally goes on: Better understanding often comes through viewing a situation from a different perspective.

Upon a first reading, I think most people — myself included — get a pretty straightforward understanding of this recent McKnight’s news item: “Assisted living residents with dementia receiving too many antipsychotics, GAO says.” As Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE) put it: The report shows that “many seniors with dementia are receiving risky mind-altering medications.” Fair enough. 

Taken from a different angle, however, reveals that this story has a significant sub-theme for nursing home operators. The title of the GAO study that precipitated the story is “Antipsychotic drug use / HHS Has Initiatives to Reduce Use Among Older Adults in Nursing Homes, But Should Expand Efforts to Other Settings.”

Nursing homes have it, and so should others. Hmmm. Would anyone recommend duplicating something if they didn’t feel it was worthy or successful? Of course not.

Granted, the GAO report authors’ main implication is that HHS efforts to educate skilled nursing providers have been successful. But there have to be open ears and willing hands to make such a program work. Nursing homes have provided them.

If GAO watchdogs think the nursing home initiative should be expanded into assisted living and other types of settings, they see value. [Antipsychotics use has, in fact, been significantly reduced in nursing homes.]

In their own quaint, couched way, federal regulators and their investigatory arm acknowledge as much. Their “Huzzah!” isn’t too loud or directly stated, but GAO authors have delivered a compliment. For skilled nursing operators, it’s an acknowledgement worth sticking in the hip pocket.

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. With this paper, regulators have, in essence, said you are a role model worth imitating.

Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

James M. Berklan is McKnight’s Editor. Follow him @JimBerklan.