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Misuse of Behavior-Modifying Medications

Many elderly nursing home residents require medications on a daily basis to treat a variety of mental and physical conditions. Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, and depression are all common health conditions that affect elderly residents, and prescription medications are often used to treat symptoms associated with these diseases. Unfortunately, nursing home lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm warn that powerful medications are being misused at nursing home facilities across the nation, resulting in devastating consequences.

When a staff member administers the wrong medication to a resident, this is considered a form of nursing home abuse. Whether the mistake is intentional or simply careless, it is still abuse. Vulnerable residents can suffer extreme side effects from certain drug interactions, including death.

When Medications are Used as Chemical Restraints

Our nursing home abuse lawyers have noticed a disturbing trend emerging at nursing homes. Some staff members are intentionally giving residents too much medication or more potent doses of medication than residents were prescribed in order to subdue them.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that nearly 20 percent of all nursing home residents are administered higher doses of antipsychotic drugs than required. These medications may calm the resident or quiet them, but they may also cause serious harm and even death. It is important to distinguish between medications that are administered for the benefit of the patient and medications that are administered for the benefit of the nursing home facility. It is illegal to use powerful behavior- modifying medications merely to discipline or control a disruptive resident.

The New York Times reported several incidents of overmedication in Florida nursing homes, in which over 70 percent of all Medicaid residents were administered an antipsychotic medication without even having a mental illness diagnoses. This resulted in numerous problems for residents, such as confusion and falls.

What Nursing Home Residents and Their Families Need to Know

There are safer ways to treat residents with mental health problems, such as behavioral therapy. Unfortunately, understaffed nursing homes may not be able to devote the time and resources necessary to successfully treat residents using alternative methods such as therapy.

Residents and their representatives have the right to refuse behavior-modifying medications that are causing significant harm. If a resident’s physician recommends an antipsychotic drug, the physician must explain why the drug is being administered and what it is being used to treat.

What to Watch For

There are certain physical conditions that may alert a resident’s loved ones of medication misuse. If a nursing home resident is showing signs of fatigue or confusion, or seems disoriented, they may be suffering from abuse. Overmedicated residents may also withdraw from visits and take a lot of naps.

If you notice that your loved one may be suffering from dangerous medication side effects, a nursing home abuse lawyer can explain your legal rights. Far too many instances of medication abuse go unreported, and it is important to get the help that you deserve and prevent future instances of abuse.