Overmedication in Nursing Homes is a Deadly Form of Abuse

Nursing home abuse takes many different forms, but one of the most dangerous types of abuse involves the overmedication of patients.  Patients with dementia are particularly vulnerable to this type of abuse, although it could happen to anyone who is living in a nursing home.  Abuse of medication can change a senior’s personality, increase the risk of falls, cause serious health conditions and even cause death. Yet, despite the risks, overmedication happens every day in nursing homes throughout the country. prescription-bottle---blank-label-991548-m

The problem stems from the fact that the behavior of some nursing home patients is difficult to control. This is especially true of patients with advanced dementia, as these patients may become anxious and aggressive. Staff members may not know how to deal with patients, or may not wish to expend the energy to provide appropriate care for troubled nursing home residents. Instead of providing adequate and appropriate care, patients are medicated with powerful anti-psychotic drugs to make them docile. An Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyer should be consulted if this is happening to someone that you love who is in a nursing home.

Overmedication is a Common Form of Atlanta Nursing Home Abuse

Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) published a comprehensive report on the risks of overmedication in a nursing home setting.  According to the report, approximately 300,000 nursing home residents across the country are currently being treated with antipsychotic medications such as schizophrenia and bipolar drugs.  The majority of these nursing home residents do not have the medical condition that the drugs are actually approved to treat. Instead, the drugs are being given to patients to calm them down, quiet them down, and make them easier for nursing home staff members to deal with.

Dementia patients are especially likely to be prescribed these drugs. Around 88 percent of the claims that were made to Medicare to cover antipsychotic drugs for nursing home patients were for people who had been diagnosed with dementia. Because the medications are not actually approved to treat this condition, a campaign was started by the government that was supposed to lessen the reliance on antipsychotics for these vulnerable seniors. The campaign made the not-very-ambitious goal to reduce the use of these medications by a period of 15 percent over a year. This small reduction did happen, but it occurred over a two year period.  It also left many patients still being prescribed antipsychotic medications they do not need.

The problem is, these medications have a black box warning about the dangerous side effects, including an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, suicide and death. A patient who is drugged with an antipsychotic medication may also be at far greater risk of falling, which can lead to a broken hip or other serious and sometimes deadly injuries.

The patients these drugs are being given to cannot consent to the medications if they don’t understand the risks. Families are often kept in the dark about what is going on.  This is an egregious violation of patient rights as nursing home staff should not be drugging patients and endangering them just to make them easier to care for. If a patient suffers harm because of this type of overmedication, the victim or surviving family members can pursue a damage claim for nursing home abuse.

The Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyers at Sammons & Carpenter, P.C. have extensive experience in cases arising from overmedication and negligent nursing staff. Call today to schedule your free case evaluation if you believe you or a loved one is a victim of Atlanta nursing home abuse.