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Nursing Home Patients Should Not Be Given Psychotropic Drugs Without Increased Supervision by Staff

Research indicates that most falls experienced by older adults happen during the daytime and are often caused by slippery floors and irregular surfaces.  An estimated 20% of falls occur during the night and are most commonly experienced by the elderly, with about 30% experiencing a fall incidence once every year.  It is well known that when an older adult experiences a fall, their likelihood of getting injured, having a hip-fracture, and even dying are higher than those of younger adults.

According to an evidence-based, peer-reviewed article on sleep medicine by Mets et al., psychotropic drugs, including lorazepam, hinder older adults’ sensory, cognitive, and motor functions, thereby disturbing their body balance and postural stability.  These impairments ultimately exacerbate their risk of falls and hip fractures, which subsequently increase their rate of mortality. Studies have shown that the effects of taking even half the recommended dosage of these drugs by older adults are more pronounced than in younger adults who take the normal dose. These studies indicate that older adults, who already have age-related poor postural balance and overall loss of bone density that predisposes them to falls and hip fractures, are more sensitive to drug-induced impairment that elevates their fall risk.  These findings clearly indicate that when older adults who are predisposed to falls and fractures are given psychotropic drugs, they need to be monitored with vigilance due to their extreme vulnerability.  Nursing home or long-term care staff that fail to provide this additional supervision to their patients who are under the influence of psychotropic drugs are not providing the quality of care their patients are entitled to.  This kind of conduct by nursing home staff is indicative of neglect.

Another review article by Cumming et al. further validates the evidence that psychotropic drugs are risk factors for falls and hip fractures. The authors’ study evaluating the association between psychotropic drug use and risk of hip fracture after a fall found that these drugs increase an older adult’s risk by at least 50%. Lorazepam, specifically, was found to significantly increase hip fracture risk. The study ultimately indicates that older adults should not be given psychotropic drugs unless the circumstance is exceptional. Furthermore, withdrawal of these drugs is highly associated with a decreased risk of falling in elderly patients, which indicates that many patients are inappropriately prescribed psychotropic drugs.

In conclusion, substantial evidence shows that psychotropic medication use for older adult patients not only impairs their cognitive and physical abilities, it also increases the danger of falling and experiencing a serious injury, such as a hip fracture.  Many nursing homes are located in cities like Alameda and Berkeley in California. These facilities must be extremely cautious when prescribing this type of medication to their highly vulnerable patients and should consider other forms of treatment when viable. If you or a loved one has been a patient in a nursing home facility and was given psychotropic drugs that resulted in critical injury, please contact us today for a free consultation.  You may have been a victim of Neglect or Elder Abuse and were withheld from the quality of care you are entitled to.