Residents in nursing homes often receive medication because they have health issues. It’s important that residents only receive the medication they’re prescribed and need for their existing physical and mental illnesses.
However, residents in long-term care facilities sometimes are given medications they don’t need to keep them restrained, more manageable, or in a stupor. This is sometimes done to keep residents quieter, more docile, or need less individual care. The problem is this violates their rights. Elderly residents deserve to live their lives free from restraints of any kind and free from unnecessary medications. When they’re given medications they don’t need, it can cause their physical and mental health to rapidly decline.
Let’s take a look at the prevalent issue of overmedication in nursing homes and how a lawyer can potentially help your loved one get justice if they are being overmedicated.
What is Overmedication in Nursing Homes?
In nursing homes, staff are supposed to provide the care that the residents need, which is why they chose to enter a facility instead of staying in their home or being cared for by a family member. When an elderly loved one chooses to enter a long-term care facility, it’s usually because they need the around-the-clock care but still want to maintain their independence.
Even though a resident may take medication every day, when they’re given more medication than they need, unnecessary medications, or the wrong medication intentionally or unintentionally, it is considered overmedication. This can happen in nursing homes because of staffing errors, but it can also happen intentionally—usually when staff wants to control a resident or make them docile.
One of the most common types of drugs that are administered to residents who don’t need them are antipsychotics. These are used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and are typically effective for these disorders. However, in patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, antipsychotic medication is actually detrimental to their health.
In fact, Human Rights Watch reports that antipsychotic medication doubles the risk of death in dementia patients, and since they’re not usually aware of what’s happening, the patients are unable to make the conscious and informed decision to take those drugs.
This is why overmedication is such a problem—it could and does easily lead to the death of patients as well as violating their rights.
How Big is the Issue of Overmedication in Long-Term Care Facilities?
Overmedication is a prevalent issue in nursing homes. As Human Rights Watch states in their article on overmedication, over 179,000 people in nursing facilities are administered antipsychotic drugs every week even though they are not prescribed for them. Since the residents are typically unable to understand what these drugs will do to them, they are unable to give informed consent, which violates their rights.
Even though many facilities claim they’re using these drugs to help manage the patients’ Alzheimer’s and dementia, antipsychotic medication can actually exacerbate their symptoms and double their risk of death. And since they’re often not mentally present or fully aware of what’s happening, they’re unable to decide to take that risk on their own.
Many times, facilities are actually using these drugs as chemical restraints, which is illegal. According to an article by NPR, there must be a medical need for the drugs—they can’t be used for the convenience of the staff. Unfortunately, though, they do.
A way that facilities work around the legality of overmedicating their patients is through the families of the residents. They’ll have families sign off on medications without describing what they’re used for, and they’ll say vaguely that the doctor ordered it for their loved one. When really, the drug is just to sedate their elderly family member.
Overmedication isn’t just a problem because it’s a rights violation, but also because it can be deadly. They’re sedating patients and inhibiting their brain function through these medications, which can kill them or place them in a mental state where they’re no longer able to function properly.
Even though many families and their lawyers are cracking down on the use of antipsychotics on dementia patients who don’t need them, many are still wrongfully on them. If you suspect your elderly loved one is one of those people, you should seek legal help.
How a Lawyer Can Help Your Loved One
Now that you’re aware of how dangerous and prevalent overmedication is in nursing homes, you should know how a nursing home abuse lawyer can help you. They will know the rights that your loved one has in their facility and ensure that they are protected.
When you have an attorney on your side, they’ll know what to look for in the facility to prove that your loved one has experienced abuse in the form of overmedication or unnecessary sedation. They’ll look to medical records, paperwork, and other documents to prove your loved one didn’t need these meds and was still given them.
You can trust that a nursing home abuse lawyer from McMath Woods P.A. is dedicated to representing your loved one and getting them the justice they deserve. Just because they decided they needed full time care in a nursing home doesn’t mean they gave up their rights—that’s why we’re here to fight.
McMath Woods P.A. is Dedicated to Victims of Nursing Home Abuse
When your loved one has been overmedicated or otherwise abused in a nursing facility, you might not know who to turn to. A nursing home abuse attorney from McMath Woods P.A. can help you take action and get them justice for what they endured.
Nobody should have their autonomy and rights violated. We stand up for the victims of nursing home abuse because oftentimes they can’t do it themselves. Reach out to us today so we can discuss your legal options and get started working for you.