OVER-PRESCRIPTION OF ANTIPSYCHOTIC DRUGS IN NURSING HOMES

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you probably spent a long time choosing the right facility, and you may be paying a substantial amount to cover their care. You want to be sure that he or she is receiving the best, most respectful and conscientious care possible from the nursing staff. However, perhaps you've noticed that your family member's disposition or energy level has changed dramatically during their time in the nursing home. Read on to learn about the use of antipsychotic drugs among nursing home residents and the risks inherent in this practice. 

Antipsychotic drugs are medications intended for severe psychiatric conditions, such as certain cases of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. However, at some point nursing homes began using the drugs as a way to control "behavior problems" among residents. These drugs cause patients to become docile, easily managed, and drowsy, making the job of an overburdened nursing home worker easier. However, the drugs are not intended to be used on patients with forms of dementia or Alzheimer's, and the FDA even instructs medical professionals that giving such drugs to patients with dementia is unsafe. In fact, these calming effects come with serious consequences for an elderly patient, including disorientation, anxiety, memory loss, and even death. Researchers believe that up to 25% of all those living in nursing homes are being given antipsychotic drugs, while only 5% of patients are believed to have a condition that warrants their use. Making matters worse, many nursing homes put their residents on these medications but are too overwhelmed with residents to provide adequate monitoring by a physician to ensure that no unsafe side-effects develop as a result.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the body that oversees the quality and safety of nursing home and assisted living facilities which receive federal funds, recently began using prescription of antipsychotic drugs as one metric for the quality of a nursing home. If a nursing home puts its patients on antipsychotic drugs at high rates, the CMS will issue the nursing home a lower rating, or possibly limit federal funds to that facility.

If you notice symptoms when visiting a loved one in a nursing home indicating that they may be on antipsychotic drugs, ask staff for information on the drugs being issued to your family member. Nursing homes are legally required to obtain informed consent from the patient or their family before putting patients on these medications. If you have not given consent and believe your loved one is incapable of or unlikely to have done so, you may want to speak with a nursing home law attorney about your options.

If your loved one has experienced negligent or abusive care in a New Jersey nursing home, contact experienced Morristown nursing home abuse attorneys at Smith & Doran for a consultation, at 973-292-0016.

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