Is a Nursing Home Overmedicating Your Loved One

According to a federal government study, 88% of Medicare claims for antipsychotic medications prescribed by doctors for nursing home patients were for treating symptoms of dementia. An estimated 300,000 nursing home residents are receiving such drugs.

However, antipsychotic drugs aren’t even approved for dementia symptoms. In fact, the packaging for many such medications includes a “black box warning” that the drugs can increase the risk that patients will suffer infections, heart failure, or even death.

A black box warning for one antipsychotic drug, Seroquel, can be seen here.

The drugs can also sedate patients, leaving them unconscious or barely conscious, and increase their risk of falls and broken bones.

According to NPR, antipsychotic drugs are often improperly prescribed to restrain, control, or silence patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Federal law prohibits the use of drugs simply to make patients easier to “manage” by nursing home staff members. This kind of drug use is called a “chemical restraint.”After the government study mentioned above, the federal government tried to convince nursing homes to reduce their use of antipsychotic drugs by 15% over one year. The reduction actually took two years and left hundreds of thousands of patients still on the drugs.

Nursing homes are supposed to obtain informed consent from either the patients or their legal guardians when prescribing antipsychotic drugs. However, many fail to do so properly. Some merely tell the family members of patients that the drugs have been prescribed, without telling them why or warning them about the risks and side effects.

Overmedication is just one of the risks of nursing home life. Other signs of neglect, abuse, and negligence include:

  • Bedsores
  • Malnutrition
  • Rashes
  • Fevers and other indications of infections
  • Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Dehydration
  • Bruises

If your family member has been prescribed antipsychotic drugs without your informed consent, or has suffered some other form of injury in a nursing home, contact an experienced personal injury attorney at the New JerseyLaw Offices of Jeffrey S. Hasson, P.C. for help.