Before placing someone in a nursing home you will probably think of the worst case scenarios: a life threatening fall, a vicious infection, improper use of medication, or inattentive staff, all of which could lead to the decline and ultimately the death of the resident. While imaging these scenarios may sound like an overreaction, the possibility that a resident could be overmedicated while living in a nursing home is not that uncommon.
Currently almost 300,000 residents are given antipsychotic drugs to suppress symptoms such as aggression or anger that go along with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Antipsychotics are only recommended to be used for treatment of serious mental illnesses. In fact, federal law prohibits the nursing home staff from using antipsychotic drugs to sedate or dull the residents. This type of action by the staff is called a “chemical restraint” and can lead to the change in personality and behaviors in addition to causing sedation. A government study found that 88 percent of Medicare claims for the antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes were being used to treat dementia. In order to reduce this number the government has started a campaign to get nursing homes to reduce their use of antipsychotics for unapproved uses by 15 percent. The 15 percent reduction was scheduled to take less than one year and instead took almost two.
For more information on overmedication and how it is affecting residents in nursing homes read the “Old and Overmedicated: The Real Drug Problem in Nursing Homes.”