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Nursing Homes Drugging Patients Unnecessarily

According to an analysis of data obtained by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from over 15,000 U.S. nursing homes, 16 % of facilities dispense antipsychotic medications to patients whose diagnoses do not indicate that course of treatment. This is shocking information in light of the Food and Drug Administration's black-box warning that antipsychotics increase the risk of fatality in elderly dementia patients.

Antipsychotics typically dispensed in nursing homes include Abilify, Risperdal, Seroquel and Zyprexa. The dangerous drugs are used to control agitation and combative behavior in patients, symptoms that are typical of dementia but that do not require treatment with antipsychotic medication. Dr. Michael Wolff, medical director for The Eddy chain of nursing homes, whose facilities performed better than the national average on medicating their residents, commented on the dangerous trend. He suggested using less-dangerous drugs, like antidepressants, before switching to stronger medications. While antidepressants still carry the risk of side effects, they are less toxic than antipsychotic medications. Antipsychotics, Wolff says, are really only "your last resort."

Diane Brown, administrative head of Saratoga County Maplewood Manor in New York State said that her facility prefers to take a non-medicinal approach to treating agitated residents. Their dementia unit has a special room, painted in black and lit with black lights, where patients are brought to calm down by listening to music and engaging in aromatherapy. "Medication isn't always the answer," she says.

As the results of the data analysis indicate, drugging nursing home residents seems to be a solution when there are not enough staff members available to address issues through other means. In fact, the lower the staffing levels at a facility, the results show, the higher the level of antipsychotic use. CMS has launched a nationwide effort to reduce the use of antipsychotics in nursing homes.

Elderly patients and their families rely on nursing homes to provide high-quality care when a senior individual is no longer able to care for her or himself without assistance. When selecting a nursing care facility, a person should have the reasonable expectation that every measure will be taken to ensure their comfort and well-being using the least invasive mode of treatment available. As the disturbing results of this analysis show, that is not happening in most of the nursing home facilities in the country. If you or a loved one has been injured by overly aggressive medical therapies or any other form of mistreatment while in a nursing home, you may be entitled to compensation and a personal injury attorney at the firm can help. Contact a personal injury attorney from Arnold & Itkin today for a free consultation regarding your case.

Categories: Nursing Home Neglect
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