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Overmedicating Nursing Home Patients

Overmedicating Nursing Home Patients

I’m Ed Smith, A Sacramento Nursing Home Abuse Attorney. In the nation’s 1550 nursing homes it is estimated that 1 in 5 residents are given unnecessary and extremely dangerous antipsychotic drugs. That is one-third of Medicare nursing home patients. Overmedication, if done intentionally, is a form of nursing home abuse.

Drugs being misused

A special agent from the Philadelphia Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that nursing homes were using the drugs in a manner not approved by the FDA. FDA regulations are in place specifically to avoid overmedication and the unnecessary use of these antipsychotic drugs but nursing homes are not in compliance.They are intended for use in patients with severe mental illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Not for patients with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. For those with Alzheimer’s or dementia these drugs can cause disorientation, agitation, confusion, anxiety and wrongful death. They dull the dementia patient’s memory, cause changes to their personalities and can crush the patient’s spirits per a California Advocate for Nursing Home Reform Report.

Watch Youtube Video – Overmedicated and Misinformed. This video gives a very good overview of the overmedication issue as it occurs in a nursing home setting. 

Why are they overmedicating nursing home patients?

The nursing homes are administering the medications without the “informed consent” required by the law. Family is supposed to be notified before such medications are given. Drugs such as, Sedatives and Antipsychotic given without a prescription or with the intent to control, restrain or make a patient more docile are called chemical restraints and this practice of misuse has become more and more common place. It is estimated that 60-70 percent of nursing home patients have dementia in some form, which increases the level of care they need. Presently nursing homes lack the staffing and label those with dementia as having behavior problems such as resisting care, wandering, being verbally abusive or physically abusive. These are not considered conditions for giving them these unnecessary drugs like Zyprexa, Seroquel and Risperdal.

Push by Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceutical companies aggressively push these products as a way for nursing homes to control issues with dementia patients, knowing that the risk of death is doubled for the elderly. Approximately 300,000 nursing home patients are still inappropriately receiving these drugs. That’s after a 15% reduction over the 2 years due to the efforts of the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). These medications cause cardiovascular complications and increased risk of fatal infections. Common side effects are dizziness, abnormal heart rhythms, drop in blood pressure, urinary problems and blurred vision.

Overmedicating nursing home patients – What to do if you Suspect:

  • keep track of what medications your loved ones are being given.
  • ask questions about why they are being prescribed.
  • research the medications for correct usage and side effects.
  • keep track of personality changes and changes in physical ability.
  • and attend the regular monthly team treatment meetings.

One of the first signs of overmedication is confusion and lethargy. Also, look for unexplained medical conditions, sleeping for long periods of time and becoming reclusive.

Related Articles by Ed Smith:

If your loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, please call me, Ed Smith, a Sacramento Nursing Home Abuse Attorney, at (916) 921-6400 or at (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.

I am a member of the Million Dollar Forum. The forum is a group of top ranked US Trial Lawyers. The lawyers in the Million Dollar Forum have won multiple million dollar verdicts.

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Image Attribution: Wikimedia commons – by Stephen Craven (own work).

Source of Overmedicating Nursing Home Patients – US Department of Health and Human Services



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