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Overmedicating Elderly Patients in Health Care Facilities

When people place their loved ones in nursing homes, they are entrusting family members to health care professionals. The assumptions goes that the health care professionals will take care of these elderly patients, tend to all of their needs, and treat them with dignity. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

For instance, a congressional report published in 2002 found that one in three nursing homes were cited for abuse. One form of abuse is through overmedicating elderly patients. After all, the average elderly patient in a health care facility takes eight medications a day, so they can be overmedicated quite easily. In addition, many of these facilities are “unnecessarily administering antipsychotic drugs,” according to a 2011 report by the Health and Human Services general inspector.

Even more problematic, in 2005 the FDA warned that elderly patients with dementia were at higher risk of death when taking antipsychotic drugs, something troubling when considering that these drugs are being administered to them in nursing home facilities. That aside, overmedication in general is a problem and something that should not be brushed aside. So, it is crucial to keep an eye on all the medications your loved one takes. If she or he does need antipsychotic drugs, make sure a psychiatrist is overseeing the dosages and type of drug(s) being prescribed. When it comes to other drugs, keep a list of all the dosages and why your loved one is taking them. (Also make note of the side effects of each drug). Of course, even taking all these precautions and keeping meticulous notes, while extremely useful, your loved one still runs the risk of being overmedicated.

There are, however, ways to try and prevent your loved one from being intentionally or unintentionally overmedicated.

Here are signs of someone who has been overmedicated:

– sudden changes in their behavior or personality – distancing from people (even from loved ones)
– excessive sleepiness – unexplained medical problems – pronounced confusion – unusually high levels of exhaustion or fatigue
Whether or not a health care professional or professionals have overmedicated intentionally or unintentionally, this is an example of negligence and abuse. In severe cases, elderly patients can die from overmedication, so the consequences are serious.

Unfortunately, one of the main reasons for persistent and prolonged overmedicating of elderly patients is the family members’ failure to react quickly enough to the situation. If the results can lead to the death of your loved one, the situation could – obviously – be quite grave. After all, it is bad enough if your loved one is being overmedicated, the loss of life is even more painful. That is why it is crucial that you keep an eye out for the possibility of your loved one being overmedicated, and if you do think this is occurring, it is important to know your rights, to ask appropriate questions, and then take necessary legal action when you see fit. In such situations, once you have determined your loved one is being overmedicated, taking action is key, especially with legal counsel at your side.

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