Powerful antipsychotic drugs are frequently used in San Diego County nursing homes to address behavioral issues caused by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, including aggression, agitation, and delirium. However, these drugs can have serious consequences for elders and can easily be misused or incorrectly prescribed. According to the Consumer Voice, when antipsychotic drugs are prescribed for elderly persons with dementia, serious medical complications can occur such as loss of independence, over-sedation, confusion, falls, and even death. Recently, nursing home advocates and those of us working in North County elder abuse law have been concerned about the misuse of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes and residential facilities. Finally, however, the government is taking notice, and a federal agency has announced a new initiative to address this so-called “drugging epidemic.”
According to an elder care statement released by the Consumer Voice, the federal campaign has been launched in order to bring about the end of the use of antipsychotic drugs as chemical restraints for seniors. Unfortunately, some nursing homes in the San Diego area and across the nation improperly use strong antipsychotic medications to control elderly residents by effectively drugging them into submission.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General reported that the overwhelming majority of Medicare claims for antipsychotic drug were inappropriate. Michael Connors, Long-Term Care Advocate with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, stated that “[t]oo many nursing homes use antipsychotic drugs as a way to control residents when they don’t have enough well-trained staff who know their residents well and can give them the time and attention they need.” Additionally, many facilities fail to obtain the proper consent from residents or their families. Another elder care advocate asserted that chemical restraints are just as dangerous for residents as physical restraints, which frequently are a sign of abuse.
The federal initiative is being led by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The agency is developing a national action plan to raise public awareness about the misuse of antipsychotic drugs. The plan will also address the need for regulatory oversight, technical assistance, and research.
Federal law already prohibits the inappropriate drugging of nursing home residents, but as our Orange County elder abuse attorneys know those laws often are not enforced or are not enforced firmly enough. This can jeopardize the lives of residents who are counting on doctors and staff at nursing facilities to provide them with the care necessary to address their medical needs and make their lives comfortable and safe.
Good care at California nursing homes is certainly possible, and, indeed, is crucial. The North County nursing home abuse lawyers at the Walton Firm firmly believe that nursing home staff should get to know their residents well so that no more medication than necessary is prescribed. Your loved ones deserve the best treatment and attention possible. Patients should never be reduced to a zombie-like state simply because a facility does not have the necessary, well-trained staff to appropriately care for all nursing home residents.
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