Antipsychotic Drug Use Negatively Impacts Dementia Patients

Making the decision to place a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility is a complex task. It is normal to fear the outcome of care for your loved one, especially regarding the use of medications and the possible abuse against the individual.

Antipsychotic drugs are a major concern in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia. Antipsychotic drugs are approved to treat serious mental illnesses, such as, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but are not regarded as a treatment for dementia.  Unfortunately, many dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease patients are given antipsychotic drugs to help reduce agitation, anxiety, and aggression, all emotions associated with dementia.

Antipsychotic drugs are not necessary for most patients with dementia; in fact, they negatively increase the risk of falls for these patients. The black box warning on antipsychotic drugs particularly warn patients with dementia, stating an increased risk for heart failure, infections and death. University of Southern California pharmacy and gerontology professor, Bradley Williams, stated, “Antipsychotics should only be used as a last resort, and just for a month or so, before gradually being eliminated.” However, a government study, conducted in 2011, found that 88 percent of Medicare claims for antipsychotic drugs prescribed in nursing homes where being used to treat symptoms of dementia.  Agitation and anxiety is common in patients with dementia because of memory loss.  These behaviors should not automatically warrant a prescription of antipsychotic drugs in order to calm the patient down for a long period of time.

Federal Law prohibits “chemical restraint,” which is the use of antipsychotic drugs and other psychoactive drugs for convenience of staff, and requires documented medical need for the prescription, along with consent from the family or patient. Often times, the family is notified of a change in drug use, and asked to sign the consent for the drug, without being given the reason for the prescription change.  It is within your right to ask what purpose the drug is serving, and express concern for any antipsychotic drug use.  If you notice your loved one’s behavior has significantly changed, and they have become nonresponsive to your visits, it is also within your right to view the prescription list and ask about any antipsychotic drugs, such as Risperdal and Haldol, and the reason and longevity of their use.

If you  have  a  loved  one  that  resides at  a  nursing  home,  you  can  be  an  advocate  for  your  family  member  to  make  sure  that  they  are  receiving the best of care.  At  the  Law  Offices  of  Ben  Yeroushalmi,  we  will  defend  the  rights  that  you  as  a  family  member  and  your  loved  ones  are  entitled  to  during  difficult  times.  Mr.  Yeroushalmi  and  his  staff  are  extremely  knowledgeable  and  passionate  about  elder abuse  and  neglect  litigation.  If  you  or  a  loved  one  is  a  victim  of  elder  abuse  or  neglect,  please  contact  us  immediately  for  a  free,  no  obligation  consultation.  We serve cities throughout northern and southern California.