One of the most pressing problems connected to nursing home neglect and abuse is overzealous antipsychotic drug use. The issue has been on the national radar for the last year or two, but that has not actually translated into concrete changes at certain facilities. Each Illinois nursing home neglect attorney at our firm knows that many seniors continue to receive these medications when it is harmful to them and when it has an overall negative effect on their quality of life.
Boston.com recently published an extended story that re-iterates the dangers of this unmitigated prescription use in nursing homes. The story of one woman is profiled. The senior lived at home until she was 80-years old. However, she developed Alzheimer’s that began to get worse. At times she would call her adult daughter in the middle of the night, not remembering where she was. For her own safety and well-being, her daughter realized that her mother needed the close care and observation that she could only get in a nursing home.
The daughter conducted a detailed search for the right facility. She eventually chose a facility close to her own home that had a special Alzheimer’s care unit. Unfortunately, what the daughter didn’t know was that the nursing home commonly prescribed powerful antipsychotic drugs to resident-even those with cognitive mental conditions like her mother who faced serious risks when receiving the medication.
The senior in this case soon began receiving the medication, even though she was not diagnosed for anything that the drug is recommended to treat. The side effects were brutal. The daughter became alarmed as her mother began having a growing number of falls and even seizures. Each Chicago nursing home attorney at our firm knows that many local residents have similarly had loved ones experience this situation.
It cannot be reiterated enough that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has specifically issued a “black box” warning that states that patients with dementia who take these antipsychotic drugs have an increased risk of death. This “black box” warning is the most serious level of alert that the agency can issue. All local residents who have loved one with dementia should be explicit in ensuring that their loved ones do not receive these dangerous medications unnecessarily.
As nursing home neglect lawyers we know that it is particularly important for outside observers to hold nursing homes accountable on this issues, because, in general, these facilities have wide latitude to dispense these medications.
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, physicians at these homes are able to prescribe drugs even for purposes not approved by the FDA. However, that doesn’t mean that they should. In fact, the agencies still explain that in the majority of cases it is inappropriate for patients with degenerative cognitive conditions to receive antipsychotics. The drugs pose risks of lethal infection, cardiovascular problems, and the medication may lead to blood pressure dropping, blurred vision, dizziness, urinary issues, and abnormal heart rhythms. For these reasons, it is incredibly important for all those in charge of these decisions not to provide blanket prescriptions but to ensure medications are only given to residents when they do not pose serious side effects and are absolutely necessary.
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