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Long-term care advocate wins award

Original source:

Ventura County Star
Tom Kisken
August 12, 2013

The leader of a Ventura County ombudsman group that has led a drive to reduce the use of powerful drugs on nursing home residents suffering from dementia will receive a national award.

Sylvia Taylor-Stein, executive director of Long Term Care Ombudsman Services of Ventura County, will receive the award in October from the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. It is given each year to someone who has advocated effectively for people receiving long-term care.

'For an ombudsman, it's sort of the apex of achievement,' said Tony Chicotel of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. He and Joseph Rodrigues, California state long-term care ombudsman, nominated Taylor-Stein. They emphasized her efforts on decreasing the reliance on antipsychotic drugs used to control behavior.

Chicotel said federal statistics that track nursing home use of medication show antipsychotic use is declining faster at nursing homes in Ventura County than in California and the U.S.

'Lots of people have been part of this, and they all deserve recognition,’ Chicotel said. 'But when it comes down to one person, it's Sylvia.' Taylor-Stein and her group organized symposiums and workshops over two years for long term care administrators, staff and doctors on an antipsychotic-medication issue that has evolved into a national movement.

Other ombudsman systems have used the programs as a model.

Taylor-Stein also formed a task force of nursing home providers who have worked to help facilities achieve what she calls “least drugging.”

She helped elevate awareness on a complex and difficult issue, said John Gardner, administrator of Victoria Care Center nursing home in Ventura. There was once more of an adversarial relationship between watchdogs and long-term care providers over the use of antipsychotics, but that has changed, he said.

“Early on, there was a different tone from both sides,” he said. “Over time, the awareness and the discussion has brought both sides a little closer together.”

Taylor-Stein used to be an executive vice president of an international publishing company. She joined the Ventura County long-term care ombudsman group in 1999, inspired largely by her grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for 10 years before dying at age 92. She said the use of chemical restraints often comes when nursing home providers don’t know the stories of the people for whom they care well enough. They don’t know how to make them comfortable and happy in the facilities.

“Some of the facilities, they’ve really stepped up,” she said of the decreasing use of the drugs. “Some are still struggling, but we have some real stars.”

The Howard Hinds Memorial Award will be presented Oct. 26 at the Consumer Voice’s Conference in Arlington, Va. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care dates to 1975, when it was founded out of concern about substandard nursing home care. The nonprofit advocates for quality care and quality of life for long-term care consumers.