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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneyMany nursing home residents are prescribed opioid medication to manage severe pain. These opioid drugs have been controversial recently because of their extreme addictive properties. They are also dangerous in that an overdose of an opioid medication such as OxyContin, morphine, codeine, Fentanyl, or hydrocodone is often fatal. While these drugs offer relief for patients in severe pain, the presence of opioids in a nursing home often leads to trouble.

Illinois Nurse Caught Stealing Fentanyl Patches

A nurse from Bloomington has been accused of removing pain-relieving opioid patches from the bodies of nursing home residents. The man allegedly visited both the nursing home he worked at as well as a second nursing home in order to steal the patches off of terminally ill patients. He was recently charged with burglary and theft after co-workers noticed that he had come into work on his day off. He was found to also have stolen fentanyl patches from a resident with dementia. Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Horve requested a $50,000 bond because of what he called “the egregious nature of the offenses.”

Overdose of Oxycodone Kills Minnesota Resident

Another dangerous element to opioids being prescribed in nursing homes is the risk of overdose. When medical staff are not properly trained or the nursing home facility is understaffed, deadly mistakes can be made with regard to opioid medication. For example, in January, a resident recovering from cancer was given over 20 times the prescribed dose of oxycodone. The resident was later found unresponsive on the floor of their room and eventually passed away. When asked about her gross mistake, the nurse who administered the deadly drug claimed she was "busy with multiple patients."

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Chicago nursing home abuse lawyersStaff at a nursing home have a responsibility to keep the residents of a nursing home safe and as comfortable as possible. When families place a loved one in a nursing home, they are assuming that the medical staff there will treat the new resident with appropriate medical care. Tragically, this is not always the case. Some nursing homes are understaffed or their staff is not adequately trained, which can result in medicine being given superfluously or necessary medicine being withheld.

Alarming Study Results 

According to a recent study conducted by the Human Rights Watch, approximately 179,000 nursing home residents are being given medicine which is not intended to treat the illness they have. Antipsychotic drugs such as aripiprazole, olanzapine, and quetiapine are used to manage psychosis. Individuals suffering from delusions, hallucinations, paranoia or a disconnection from reality are generally given these medications as a treatment for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The problem is that about 179,000 nursing home residents being given this medicine do not have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other mental illnesses that those drugs are designed to treat.

Many of the residents being given these medications have Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia which antipsychotics are not approved to treat. Even more disturbing, antipsychotic drugs come with a "black box warning" from the FDA.  Black box warnings are the strictest labeling requirements that the FDA can mandate. These warnings are used to call attention to serious or life-threatening risks associated with the medication. The black box warning on antipsychotics states that they increase the risk of death in older people with dementia. The study also found that antipsychotic drugs were administered to residents without their informed consent. The purpose of using antipsychotic medications for residents who do not require them is often to make dementia patients “easier to handle” in understaffed facilities.

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