Growing old: it is something we all must face one day, but now, with more caution than before. Nursing homes have been under scrutiny for their abuse of prescribing antipsychotic drugs to control their residents. Specifically, a study conducted by the United States' government in 2008 revealed that "88 percent of Medicare claims for antipsychotics prescribed in nursing homes were for treating symptoms of dementia, even though the drugs aren't approved for that". Not only are antipsychotics not approved for individuals with dementia, they are highly warned against, as they have been proven to increase the risk of infection, heart failure, and death.
So why are nursing homes unnecessarily prescribing these dangerous drugs? Many claim the reason that nursing homes are turning to antipsychotic drugs to control patients is because the homes are significantly understaffed. Unable to be provided sufficient care, nursing home residents become more restless. The staff in turn controls this restlessness with drug abuse. In addition, patients with dementia, Alzheimer's, and related diseases often suffer from increased levels of aggression and anxiety, and antipsychotic drugs have been said to suppress these symptoms. However, the suppression has been described as "mind-numbing", leaving patients in a state of confusion.
The government has become involved in the efforts to alleviate this drug-abuse issue: in 2011, the U.S. government committed to reducing antipsychotic drug use in nursing homes by 15% within one year. However, the campaign lasted two years and then left over 300,000 nursing home residents still prescribed to these drugs. Requiring informed consent has also been a mechanism used to reduce this abuse. However, nursing homes have often found ways around this required consent as many residents and family members were unaware of the prescription drugs. Obviously, this is an issue that needs to be legally addressed. If you suspect your loved one has suffered from any sort of abuse in a nursing home, call us immediately for a free consultation at 512-472-6097.
The full article is available at: www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/12/08/368524824/old-and-overmedicated-the-real-drug-problem-in-nursing-homes