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A common issue in nursing homes across the country is physicians over-medicating elderly residents. This occurs for a number of reasons, including improper diagnoses, failure to monitor resident’s changing needs, and intentional chemical restraints. In fact, a recent study found many over-prescribed residents received improper medications to make it easier for nursing home staff members to handle them.
If you have a loved one living in a nursing home and you believe they are being over-medicated, contact the nursing home abuse lawyers at Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C. right away. We will help you take care of your loved one and hold the nursing home responsible for their misconduct. Call us today at (205) 933-1500 to schedule a free, initial case consultation.
In February 2018, Human Rights Watch (HRW) found approximately 179,000 nursing home residents are given antipsychotic drugs every week despite not having a medical condition those drugs are intended to treat, such as schizophrenia. The inappropriate use of antipsychotics varies greatly based on county and nursing home.
Antipsychotic drugs were often given to patients with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, conditions the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved these drug for. In addition to the off-label use, the study found many of these drugs were administered without informed consent, which means the resident or the relative who makes health care decisions on behalf of the person in the nursing home was not told the resident was being given these drugs. It also means the residents or their health care proxies are not given the opportunity to refuse the drugs. This alone may constitute medical negligence.
The apparent intent behind the over-prescribing of these drugs is troublesome. These are strong drugs, which can easily act as chemical restraints. They sedate the residents and make them easier to manage. This is often an issue in under-staffed nursing homes. A more sinister intent could also be behind the sedation: punishment. In many states, drugging an individual as punishment for perceived bad before may constitute elder abuse or another crime.
Residents should never receive medications they do not need. These drugs can be particularly dangerous. Antipsychotic drugs have an FDA black box warning that states they increase the risk of death in seniors with dementia and that they are not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia-related psychosis. In 2008, after an analysis of several trials, the FDA required drug manufacturers to place its highest warning on the all labels for antipsychotic drugs.
The over-use of antipsychotic drugs is not a new problem. It has been documented for years, and the federal government has taken steps to reduce it. So have state organizations and individual facilities. However, the problem has not been solved. Too many seniors who rely on their nursing homes to take care of them are being unnecessarily sedated with potentially dangerous drugs. If you believe your relative is one of those seniors, call our nursing home abuse lawyers immediately.
At Belt, Bruner, & Barnett P.C., our first steps will be to get your loved one the medical care they need, including having them taken off any medically unnecessary drugs. The nursing home facility may cooperate. However, this may require transferring your relative to an emergency room or a new facility. Based on the information we acquire, they may have a valid legal claim against the nursing home based on medical negligence, elder neglect, or elder abuse.
To schedule a time to discuss your loved one’s situation, contact us online or call (205) 933-1500.