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.