Use of Anti-Psychotic Drugs in Nursing Homes Still Common
It may surprise you to learn that 25% of all nursing home residents are believed to be taking anti-psychotic drugs, despite widespread evidence that the practice is unsafe and unnecessary. This number stands in stark contrast to the 5% of nursing home residents who are believed to have conditions which the drugs are intended to treat, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Anti-psychotic drugs pose a threat of harm to the majority of nursing home residents. It is true that 60-70% of all nursing home residents are believed to suffer from some form of dementia. However, the FDA has issued a warning regarding anti-psychotic drugs that the medications are, in fact, even more dangerous for those suffering from dementia than to otherwise-healthy individuals. The drugs have been shown to result in disorientation, anxiety, memory loss, or worse when they are given to patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s. One woman whose mother was prescribed with anti-psychotic medications filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents wrongly prescribed with such medications after her mother died from taking the drugs.
Nursing home staff overprescribe the drugs for a myriad of reasons, mostly relating to controlling the behavior of residents. Nursing homes are chronically understaffed, and many times staff do not receive the training necessary to enable them to respond competently to behavior problems in residents. Since anti-psychotic drugs tend to make patients more docile and sedate, they are often given to individuals who exhibit erratic or violent behavior. Pharmaceutical companies have also spent years promoting the use of anti-psychotic drugs as a way to control nursing home populations. While doctors are required in order to prescribe the drugs, there are often insufficient medical professionals on staff to ensure that the drugs are being used appropriately and to monitor the residents for negative side effects from taking the drugs.
Multiple studies have shown that behavioral interventions rather than medical ones are not only safer for the nursing home residents, but lead to more successful outcomes for those residents. As a result, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency responsible for rating nursing homes and regulating the federal funding they receive, now strongly advocates against the unnecessary prescription of anti-psychotic drugs to nursing home residents. The CMS has also added a component to its rating system of nursing homes that publicizes the percentage of residents of each home who have been prescribed with anti-psychotic drugs as a negative aspect of the overall rating of the facility. This information can be invaluable when you are choosing a nursing home for yourself or a family member.
If you have a loved one in a nursing home and have noticed that they seem to have become more prone to confusion or disorientation, that their memories fail more often, or that their affect seems more flattened and lacking in energy, speak with their nurses and doctors to determine what medications they are taking. Your older relatives may no longer be able to speak up for themselves, and they may need you as an advocate for their best interests. If you feel that your loved one’s rights have been violated, or that they have become the victim of abuse in a nursing home, speak with a compassionate, knowledgeable attorney to explore your legal options to recover for this harm.
For assistance exploring a claim for nursing home or other elder abuse, contact experienced Mobile nursing home abuse attorney J. Allan Brown for a consultation at 251-473-6691.