Reducing Unnecessary Antipsychotic Drug Use in Nursing Homes

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report in 2011 finding that antipsychotic drugs given to elderly residents of nursing homes were not administered in compliance with standards set forth by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Such medications, when used properly, can be effective in aiding a patient’s mental and physical well-being. However, unnecessary antipsychotic drug administration is dangerous and not appropriate in the care of the elderly. Unnecessary drug administration practices may include excessive dose administrations, drugs provided in excessive durations, lack of adequate monitoring, or the administration of drugs in the presence of adverse effects which show the dosage should be lowered or discontinued. It has been found that improper or excessive administration of antipsychotic drugs may not only result in death but may lead to unnecessary hospitalization, falls, heart attacks, strokes, and other complications.

Unfortunately, because many elderly nursing home residents currently suffer from dementia, there has been a growing concern that antipsychotic medication has been administered inappropriately to control behavioral problems related to dementia. To combat this issue, CMS launched a National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in 2012 with the goal of protecting the elderly receiving dementia care in nursing homes and other healthcare settings. Specifically, the partnership sought to protect against unnecessary antipsychotic drug use unless there was a valid, clinical purpose. The partnership also sought to encourage nursing homes and others providing dementia care to consider non-pharmacological alternatives for the elderly.


The implementation of non-pharmacological alternatives for nursing home residents would not only improve quality of life for these residents, but would help avoid incorrect dosing and other risks inherent with the administration of medication. Such non-pharmacological alternatives include increasing time outdoors, engaging in physical activity, and closely monitoring residents’ pain. Additionally, elderly residents suffering from dementia may also find it helpful to engage in alternative therapies involving art, dance and drama. CMS supported such non-pharmacological therapies stating numerous advantages. For example, these activities would provide dementia sufferers with a voice, engage and focus their attention, promote positive moods through social interaction, allow for creative interpretations, and trigger long-term memories as well. Thus, managing and caring for dementia without relying solely upon medication may help the elderly improve their quality of life.

Recent data from CMS has shown that the partnership’s efforts have helped to reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs among elderly residents in nursing homes. However, unnecessary administration of such drugs still occurs. If you believe that your loved one has been unnecessarily or inappropriately medicated, let us help ease your loved one’s suffering. The passionate team of attorneys at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi firmly believes that your loved one’s well-being should be prioritized and that nursing home residents should receive proper, individualized care. We serve cities all across Northern and Southern California such as Oakland, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Tustin. Contact us today at (888) 606-3453 for a free consultation.