Study Exposes Nursing Home Staff’s Lack of Knowledge Regarding Antipsychotic Medication

A recent study published by the Journal of American Medical Directors Association (JAMDA) provided insight as to the knowledge nursing home staff possessed regarding antipsychotic drugs, along with the beliefs they held regarding the appropriateness and effectiveness of such drugs. Antipsychotic medications are generally administered to dementia patients to address behavioral issues. However, administration of these drugs has raised significant patient safety issues. There has been evidence of increased mortality, morbidity, along with risks of serious side effects such as strokes and death. Furthermore, evidence revealed such drugs have limited efficacy in older adults who suffer from dementia. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even issued black box warnings to emphasize these risks. Despite such evidence, the use of antipsychotic medications is still high within such facilities.

The study’s survey revealed gaps in knowledge and awareness across all levels of nursing home staff regarding the negative effects of antipsychotic medication. Many believed these drugs were effective in managing the behaviors of dementia patients, and that managing the challenging behavior of such patients was not possible without these drugs. Specifically, only 37% of direct care staff felt they could handle difficult residents without the use of medications. An even more alarming finding exposed the lack of knowledge amongst prescribers such as medical directors, directors of nursing, and RNs/LPNs concerning the significant adverse effects of such medications. The study revealed that only 24% of nursing home leaders were able to identify at least 1 severe adverse effect of antipsychotics, while only 12% of RNs were able to list at least one adverse effect.

These individuals are leaders within the nursing home and are not only responsible for administering drugs but educating other staff members about them. Without possessing adequate knowledge about adverse effects and risks of medications, health care providers may inaccurately weigh the medication’s benefits and risks, and may be unable to timely recognize any adverse effects occurring within patients. Furthermore, a lack of knowledge could impact their patient’s ability to make a truly informed decision regarding medication use because staff members would not be able to provide complete and accurate information.

Those who have loved ones in nursing homes heavily rely on and trust nursing home staff to be knowledgeable about the types of medications and care plans being administered to their residents. Furthermore, those who care for dementia patients must be particularly mindful as to the difficulties such patients face, and should not administer antipsychotic medication inappropriately in order to temporarily assuage behavioral issues. If you believe your loved one is being harmed through such inappropriate practices, we encourage you to contact us at (888) 606-3453 today for a free consultation. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi are dedicated to protecting the rights of victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. We have locations in both Southern California and Northern California and serve communities across the state.