Nursing Homes Continue to Overmedicate Dementia Patients

daan-stevens-282446-1-copy-300x191Do you have a loved one with dementia who resides in a nursing home in Carlsbad? If so, it is important to pay close attention to the risks of overmedication for dementia patients. While we have been discussing the problematic off-label use of antipsychotic drugs in patients with Alzheimer’s for quite some time, in more recent months we have not heard a lot about this issue. However, a lack of news coverage about an issue does not mean it has been resolved in a satisfactory manner. According to U.S. News & World Report, a recent report from Human Rights Watch found that “nursing homes unnecessarily give antipsychotic drugs to more than 179,000 residents per week.”

Off-Label Use of Antipsychotic Drugs Persists in American Nursing Homes

The Human Rights Watch report says that antipsychotic drugs continue to be administered to elderly nursing home residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia when those drugs have not been prescribed to treat their conditions. Potentially even more harmful, the report suggests, is that those patients are not giving “free and informed consent” to the off-label use of these antipsychotic drugs. These findings appeared in a human rights watch report entitled, “They Want Docile.”

The report focuses on how nursing homes use antipsychotic drugs in order to sedate dementia patients in nursing homes in order to make them “easier to manage.” According to Hannah Flamm, a current Human Rights Watch fellow, “people with dementia are often sedated to make life easier for overworked nursing home staff, and the government does little to protect vulnerable residents from such abuse.” These drugs are intended to treat specific psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia, and they were not designed to be used on nursing home patients with dementia.

California Nursing Homes Cited in Report

Whether you are in Carlsbad or elsewhere in California, you should know that the Human Rights Watch report included data from California nursing homes. The fact that nursing homes continue to administer antipsychotic drugs to older dementia patients has become clear from visits to 109 different skilled nursing facilities and 323 different interviews between October 2016 and March 2017. Many of those facilities were located in California.

According to one nursing home social worker, “a reason for medicating someone included cries for help.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned against the harms associated with antipsychotic drug use, including “the potential risk of death.” However, as the report suggests, the “severity of those warnings and the heightened risk the rugs pose to dementia patients is not communicated to the patients or their loved ones.” Ultimately, the report highlights a greater need to address off-label antipsychotic drug use in nursing homes and to find a way to ensure that these drugs are not administered to patients without their consent.

Contact a Carlsbad Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

Do you have concerns about an elderly loved one’s well-being in a California nursing home? An experienced nursing home abuse attorney in Carlsbad can help. Contact the Walton Law Firm to learn more about the services we provide to clients in San Diego County.


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Decisionmaking in Nursing Homes for Incompetent Residents

(image courtesy of Daan Stevens)

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