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Fall Risks in Nursing Homes Increased By Antidepressant Use

Medline Plus News reported late last week on new concerns being raised about the effects of antipsychotic and antidepressant drug use in nursing homes. Of course, any experienced Chicago nursing home neglect lawyer is well versed in the issues about this medication use in long-term care facilities-it has been a concern for quite some time. New information continues to pour in, however, that reveals even more problems than previously thought are associated with the increased use of these drugs in homes.

This latest report found that resident fall risks are increased when they take antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The researchers which reached this conclusion examined prescription medicine data and falls in about 250 different residents with dementia. The residents were tracked for a two year period. During that time about 683 total falls were experienced, with 61.5% of residents experiencing at least one fall and many residents facing several falls. The overall average represents nearly three falls per resident in the study. Those numbers on their own are not all that encouraging.

Our nursing home neglect lawyers were not surprised to learn that about a third of those falls actually led to injury or death. These accidents are one of the biggest risks faced by vulnerable seniors in these facilities. The most common injuries including hip fractures, other fractures, sprains, swelling, open wounds, and bruises.

In total, the risk of having an injury-causing fall was three times more likely if the resident was taking an SSRI. The 300% risk increase was found in both men and woman and for those residents of different ages. What this means is that it is highly likely that the risk was actually factored into the effects of the drug itself and not some confounding factors.

Our Illinois nursing home neglect attorneys know that this latest information about fall risks joins already known problems with antipsychotic and antidepressant drug use in homes. Off-label use of these drugs is high, placing residents at risk of often unacceptable levels of complications. There is even a “black box” warning on most antipsychotic medications which reveal that use by dementia residents comes with an increased risk of death. Obviously that is a risk that cannot be accepted. In addition, these drugs are often nothing more than “chemical straightjackets” which make residents easier to control but actually hurt their quality of life. It is difficult for these seniors to be fully engaged in the world around them and take advantages of all of the activities that they used to enjoy if they are constantly fogged over by the effects of these drugs.

Overall, all community members have more reason than ever to keep a close eye on the medications that their loved one is taking in these facilities. Of course there are many drugs that are actually important to keeping a resident healthy. But that does not mean that all prescriptions are useful and necessary to maximize a resident’s quality of life. Over-prescription of residents remains one of the most common, yet hidden, forms of Illinois nursing home neglect. We must do everything we can to stamp it out.

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