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Report: Antipsychotics Are Used Too Often in Nursing Homes

 Posted on October 31, 2019 in Nursing Home Abuse

Illinois nursing home attorneysThose who work in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are tasked with keeping residents safe and comfortable. When a family makes the difficult decision to place a loved one in such a facility, they do so under the assumption that the home’s staff will provide appropriate medical care while looking after their loved one’s needs. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

In many nursing homes, staffing levels are alarmingly low, and training is often inadequate. These issues lead to serious problems, including the improper use of medication as chemical restraints.

A Scary Report

Last year, the watchdog group Human Rights Watch released a report that examined the prescribing of medications to nursing home residents. The report estimated that each week, approximately 179,000 residents of nursing homes are given antipsychotic medications despite not having conditions for which the drugs are approved. Antipsychotics, including olanzapine, aripiprazole, and quetiapine, are intended to manage psychosis in patients who suffer from hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, or severe disassociation from reality. In most cases, such patients have been diagnosed with conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The glaring problem, however, is that nursing homes are reportedly giving these medications to residents who do not have such conditions or episodes of psychosis. Instead, the residents generally have Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that are associated with dementia. So, what is the purpose of giving dementia patients an antipsychotic? Sadly, the answer is that antipsychotic medications tend to have a strong sedative effect, especially for patients who do not actually have psychosis-related conditions. In short, the medications are reportedly being used as a chemical form of restraint—simply to make the residents easier to deal with, so to speak.

Serious Dangers

There is little question that using antipsychotics as a form a chemical restraint is unethical, assuming the patient is not being sedated for his or her own safety or the safety of others. However, there are other problems, as well. Antipsychotic medications carry what is known as a “black box warning” from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning is the most serious cautionary warning that can be ordered by the FDA, and it is meant to bring attention to serious risks associated with a particular drug.

The black box warning on antipsychotics specifically cautions against giving the medication to elderly patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The drugs have been found to increase the risk of death in frail, elderly people. It is not strictly against the law for a nursing home patient to be given an antipsychotic medication, but the patient or his or her family must be notified and be given the chance to refuse the drug. According to the report, very few nursing homes obtain such consent.

Contact a Chicago Nursing Home Injury Attorney

While there are efforts underway to curtail the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications as chemical restraints in nursing homes, the problem still exists. If you have a loved one in a nursing home who has received drugs for off-label reasons, contact an experienced Illinois nursing home abuse lawyer. Call Schwartz Injury Law at 312-535-4625 for a free consultation today.



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