Nursing Home Negligence and Substance Abuse

799px-Alcohol_bottles_photographed_while_drunkHow broad is the term nursing home neglect? For instance, when a senior has a problem with drug or alcohol abuse and lives in a nursing home or an assisted-living facility in Southern California, does the facility have a duty to prevent the senior from obtaining potentially harmful substances? And if the facility knows about a history of drug or alcohol abuse and does not take precautions to limit a senior resident’s access to alcohol or prescription drugs, can the nursing home be responsible for injuries that occur? According to a fact sheet from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), it can be difficult to recognize signs and symptoms of substance abuse among older adults.

Should we be able to expect that facilities will look into signs and symptoms of substance abuse among elderly residents? And if a facility in San Diego already knows that one of its residents has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, what must it do differently in other to avoid allegations of nursing home negligence?

Difficulty Identifying Senior Residents with Substance Abuse Problems

According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, one of the primary problems when it comes to preventing elderly injuries from substance abuse in nursing homes is the ability for a facility to identify a drug or alcohol problem. As that article explains, addiction specialists as well as senior advocates argue that, in areas across the United States, “few nursing homes are prepared to identify and treat residents with a history of substance abuse, and even when they do, services to care for each patient have typically not been a priority.” Indeed, there is currently a “critical gap in substance abuse care” in facilities throughout the country, and the problem is “expected to grow as baby boomers reach an age when they begin entering nursing homes at a hastening rate.”

What are signs and symptoms of substance abuse among older adults? According to the NCADD fact sheet, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities should be trained to identify drug and alcohol abuse based on some of the following:

  • Rituals of drinking before dinner, during dinner, or after dinner;
  • Drinking alcohol alone;
  • Drinking alcohol even though prescription drug regimen warns against alcohol consumption;
  • Frequent use of or request for tranquilizers;
  • Loss of interest in former hobbies;
  • Chronic health complaints;
  • Hostility;
  • Depression;
  • Confusion; and/or
  • Memory loss.

Increased Harms of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Among the Elderly

As the NCADD explains, the impact of injuries among the elderly related to drug or alcohol abuse tend to be much more amplified. Not only are the physical effects of addiction “more debilitating,” but there is also a higher “risk of harmful medication interactions.”

The NCADD predicts that almost 50% of all nursing home residents have a problem with alcohol addiction. In addition, many older adults also have addiction problems when it comes to prescription drugs. As the article in the Boston Globe highlights, numerous injuries in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities also result from addiction to tranquilizers, such as benzodiazepines. In some cases, injuries happen when seniors have addictions to benzodiazepines, and those medications have harmful interactions with other drugs.

Can a family hold a nursing home responsible for neglect if an elderly resident’s addiction problem is not properly monitored and an injury happens? Nursing homes are responsible for providing care to residents, and this may include taking precautions to prevent harms associated with substance abuse.

Contact a San Diego Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

If you have questions about filing a nursing home negligence claim, an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer can help. Contact the Walton Law Firm today.

See Related Blog Posts:

Learning More About Restraints and Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing Home Abuse and Mental Illness


(image courtesy of Kotivalo)

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