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Drug abuse not uncommon in nursing homes

Medication errors are a rather common mistake in the field of health care, particularly in institutions where elderly people live, such as nursing homes and assisted living centers. It is the responsibility of these institutions, of course, to ensure that residents receive the medication they have been prescribed in a timely way.

Something that may surprise some of our readers is that abuse of certain powerful medications is not at all uncommon in nursing homes and assisted living centers. In particular, antipsychotic medications are well known to be overused at nursing homes. According to some, up to one in five patients in nursing homes are unnecessarily medicated with antipsychotic drugs.

Why exactly do nursing homes use these powerful drugs when it isn’t necessary to do so? One reason is that these drugs are powerful enough to render residents with behavior problems more manageable. With chronic understaffing and poor training as widespread problems it usually easier to medicate, even when it isn’t in the best interests of the patient. Pharmaceutical companies peddling these drugs don’t help the matter.

This trend should concern all of us. Would you want your elderly parents being given powerful drugs when it isn’t necessary? And, although patients and/or their families are supposed to be given the opportunity to give consent to the use of these medications, this doesn’t always happen.

Residents and their families who have suffered harm because of inappropriate use of powerful medications should contact an attorney to determine what options they have for recovery.

Source: AARP, “Drug Abuse: Antipsychotics in Nursing Homes,” Jan Goodwin, July 2014. 

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