Articles Tagged with opioids

dementia patients

Regulators Release New Guidelines to Reduce Antipsychotic Use for Residents Living with Dementia

Antipsychotic drugs are sometimes given to patients living in nursing homes to calm behaviors associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. But for decades, staff have been wrongfully using the powerful medications as a crutch-to-caregiving to make these patients easier to handle. Antipsychotic drugs can be especially dangerous when used without the patient’s physician or family’s knowledge or consent, a haphazard tactic given that the mismanagement and misuse of these drugs have been known to cause sudden death and drastically decline a person’s well-being.

Some of the most widely used antipsychotic drugs used in nursing homes today include:

nursing home opioids

Wisconsin Nurse Charged for Stealing Opioids from Three Nursing Homes

News of a Wisconsin nurse charged with stealing medication from three nursing homes is unfortunately too common of a read these days. According to the Feb. 2019 criminal complaint, the 36-year-old nurse was charged with four counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and two counts of misdemeanor theft while being employed by Atrium Health Care in Chippewa County. The charges came after another employee contacted local police alerting them that a worker at a nursing home had her name forged in a book that tracks narcotic counts. The book showed Oxycodone had been signed out 11 times with conflicting signatures.

The thief, who was also a trusted nurse, was soon identified and later admitted to taking Opioids and prescription pills, including Vicodin, Oxycodone and Lorazepam, and others from two nursing homes she worked at as well. Opioid drugs are commonly prescribed by physicians for nursing home residents with moderate to severe pain and those in serious, life-threatening illness and can include:

nursing home opioids
Congressional Committee Leader Targets Centers for Medicare & Medicaid For Slow Changes of Antipsychotic Drug Use in Nursing Homes

Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) is the author of a January 22, 2019 letter sent to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) administrator, Seema Verma. In the letter, the congressional committee leader overseeing Medicare says he wants to see a closer look at how nursing homes are really using antipsychotics and is also asking for greater detail on how skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and Medicare plans alike are actively changing the way the drugs are being used.  Although antipsychotic drug overuse, theft, and abuse in nursing homes have been long-time issues in the U.S., CMS’s 2019 trend update on the problem shows nursing homes are making progress in decreasing antipsychotic prescribing.

“CMS is tracking the progress of the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes by reviewing publicly reported measures. The official measure of the Partnership is the percentage of long-stay nursing home residents who receive antipsychotic medication, excluding residents diagnosed with schizophrenia, Huntington’s disease, or Tourette’s syndrome. In the fourth quarter of 2011, 23.9 percent of residents received an antipsychotic medication; since then there has been a decrease of 38.9 percent to a national prevalence of 14.6 percent in the second quarter of 2018. Success varies by state and CMS region; some states and regions have a reduction greater than 40 percent.”

nursing home drug dangers

Elder Justice Coalition Links Nursing Home Abuse and Opioid Abuse

With an opioid epidemic in our country that is beyond alerting, it remains evident that the 2017 guidelines The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) set forth for managing chronic pain with caution against opioid use are not being followed. The CDC continues to warn that the benefits for improving pain and function through dangerous opioids must outweigh the risks when prescribing and administering the drugs. One group of Americans persistently impacted by the mismanagement of opioids is the nursing home population.

The nonpartisan Elder Justice Coalition (EJC) recently met with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Health and Senior Advisor for Opioid Policy, Admiral Brett Giroir in response to the opioid crisis. Assistant Secretary for Aging and Administrator of the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Lance Robertson and leadership of the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) were also present. EJC National Coordinator Bob Blancato released this statement recapping the meeting in a January 23, 2019 EJC press release.

nursing home medication errors

Evictions and Transfers Could Lead to Medication Errors

There are many high-quality nursing home facilities committed to ensuring the residents in their care are receiving the best attention possible but that doesn’t stop family members from fearing the worst-case scenario when residents are evicted or transferred to a new facility.

In the past five years, Illinois was identified as having doubled their number of nursing home evictions and transfers. Evictions can be justified but Federal law requires nursing homes to give residents 30 days’ notice of their decision to evict them from the facility, as well as the opportunity to appeal the decision. That same notice must also be given to the state long-term care ombudsman, an elder rights representative assigned in every state.

doctor opioid theft

Current or Former Employees Likely Responsible for Medication Theft

Pain medication thieves recently scored rather too easily at an Oklahoma nursing home. This was the second time in just one month in which patients’ narcotics were taken from the home. Reports from local police in Sulphur say the thieves climbed through the outside office window at the nursing home and stole more than 500 doses of opioids and other drugs including Norco ((acetaminophen and hydrocodone), Oxycontin, morphine and Xanax, and fentanyl patches. The estimated value of the stolen medications tallied in at $1,000. The home’s frustrated administrator said since the most recent incident, locks have been changed, and staff are encouraged to watch out for and report any suspicious activities. Local Police think it is possible that a current or former employee may be responsible for the theft, given that they “went straight for the key” to the medicine cart.

Levin & Perconti’s elder abuse lawyers feel this is yet another reminder for family members to keep a close eye on the security plan and safe living conditions of seniors to ensure they and their medications are protected. Nursing home negligence and lapses in care by nursing home providers can serve as just the start of possible misconduct and are often indicative of larger problems with the management of nursing facilities. When staffing decisions are made quickly or with lax standards, negligent and abusive employees are invited to abuse, steal, and wreak havoc on the lives of residents. These scenarios should never be allowed.

prescription drugs

How Nursing Homes Should Handle Dangerous Prescription Drug Recalls

While most families worry about the misuse of their loved one’s prescription drugs while they are living in a nursing home, a new medication issue is presenting itself across America. In 2017, the American Medical Association released a report showing that many drugs the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approves are involved in some kind of recall or safety event after being released to consumers. Nursing home and long-term care residents are especially at risk of taking recalled or defective drugs because not all recalls are announced by the FDA or reported in the news media. When a public announcement is not made, notification is typically made by communication from the drug manufacturer to a nursing home resident who may not be reachable or cognitive. A nursing home pharmacist or lead medical staff should be in the know of any recalled medications, remove any faulted drugs from the stock cabinet and help provide an alternative plan alongside a nursing home patient’s treating physician to prevent unnecessary sickness or injury.

Understanding Drug Recalls

nursing home abuse

Opioid Epidemic Swindles Its Way into Theft of Nursing Home Resident Medications

A 31-year-old nurse from central Illinois has plead guilty to resident burglary after stealing opioid patches from several terminally ill nursing home patients. Prosecutors say the man was working as a nurse at Bloomington Rehabilitation and Health Care Center but was actually not on duty when he entered a resident’s room and stole a pain patch. Just two days later he also removed the same type of medication from a terminally ill person at a care facility where he previously worked. Five other charges were dropped as part of the plea deal which will require him to surrender his nursing license and face a possible sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Nursing home employees can be tempted to steal resident medications to feed and drug addiction habit or may be tempted to take the prescriptions and sell them for their own financial gain. While not OK, nursing home employees are often underpaid, struggling financially, and looking for quick ways to supplement their income. One little pill can be sold for up to $200. Family members have also been known to steal medication from loved ones while caring for them at home or when visiting them in a facility.

Lawyer Monthly - Legal Awards Winner
The National Trial Lawyers
Elder Care Matters Alliance
American Association for Justice
Fellow Litigation Counsel of America
Super Lawyers