Overuse of Antipsychotic Medications in Nursing Homes

According to the American Association of Retired Persons, AARP, 1 in 5 elderly patients—in over 15,500 nursing homes—are administered powerful antipsychotic medications that have the ability to create detrimental, and possibly fatal, side effects. Antipsychotics are habitually distributed to subdue the patient and create a less chaotic work environment for the understaffed nurses in a skilled nurse facility. The over prescription of antipsychotics have left many families outraged at the mistreatment of their loved ones. The use of antipsychotic medications is a disregard to the patient’s quality of life in favor of higher profits.

Antipsychotics have inimical side effects, especially when given to Dementia patients. Dementia patients compose of about 70% of residents in a skilled nursing facility. With such a high percentage residing in facilities, their quality of care is fundamental to maintain an adequate quality of life. AARP continues this thought by stating, “In those populations, these drugs can trigger agitation, anxiety, confusion, disorientation and even death.”

Antipsychotics are over prescribed as a shortcut to create more submissive patients. AARP explains, “If one drug caused sleeplessness and anxiety, she was given a different medication to counteract those side effects. If yet another drug induced agitation or the urge to constantly move, she was medicated again for that.” The overuse of drugs has lead to the neglect and abuse of many elderly residents.

An increase in staff members in a skilled nursing facility, coupled with an increase of better training for certified nursing assistants (CNA), has the ability to eliminate the overuse of antipsychotic medication. Understaffing is the primary cause for overmedication. The law requires all skilled nursing facilities must have a 1-7 ratio of nurses to patients; unfortunately, most skilled nursing facilities have a ratio of 1-15. Low wages, coupled with an exceptionally stressful workload, leads to a high turnover rate in skilled nursing facilities. As a result of the high turnover rates, many CNA caregivers do not “know their patients well enough to recognize their needs.” Therefore, causing many caregivers to overmedicate their patients to ease the stress during their long shifts. “

Although a terribly common form of neglect, skilled nursing facilities are not the only entity responsible. In 2013, Johnson & Johnson, a leading nursing home pharmaceutical distributor, and their subsidiaries were charge 2.2 billion dollars due to the “aggressive marketing of drugs, including antipsychotics, to nursing homes.” These big corporations take advantage of the geriatric population by reinforcing the use of antipsychotic medication when it can be extremely detrimental to their health.

Antipsychotic medications should not be prescribed as a form of subduing a patient in a nursing home. The skilled nursing facility has an obligation to its residents to administer adequate quality of care. Although important, quality of care is not always a priority. At the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi, an elite elder abuse and neglect firm, we ensure that justice prevails if you or your loved ones quality of care becomes anything less than a priority. Mr. Yeroushalmi and his staff will battle rigorously to protect the fundamental rights you and your loved ones are entitled too. If you believe your or a loved one is a victim of abuse or neglect please contact us today at (310) 623-1926 for a free consultation.