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Is There a Racial Bias In How Nursing Home Residents Are Treated?

by | Nov 17, 2021 | Firm News

Nursing home abuse takes many forms, but one that frequently flies under the radar is the use of antipsychotic medications and sedatives in lieu or more appropriate, more effective and costlier measures. In an effort to reduce the unnecessary use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes, the government drastically limited their use, citing very few exemptions. One such exemption is for residents who live with schizophrenia.

Since the government listed schizophrenia as an exemption back in 2012, the number of diagnoses has risen by 70%. Per Wion, experts believe that nursing homes are using the exemption as a loophole to continue to sedate dementia patients instead of providing them with appropriate care. Sadly, black residents have been the most impacted by this phenomenon.

Schizophrenia misdiagnoses are higher among black nursing home residents

According to a recent study, since the new rule went into effect, Black Americans who live with dementia are 1.7 times more likely to receive a schizophrenia diagnosis than white residents. These findings align with those from past research on schizophrenia diagnoses, which show that clinicians are more likely to dole out inaccurate schizophrenia diagnoses to black patients — regardless of age — than to white ones. Moreover, findings show that clinicians can talk to both a black patient and a white patient who present with otherwise similar symptoms and overemphasize delusions, hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms in the black patient over the white one.

Historically, black patients are more likely to live in lower-ranking facilities

The prevalence rate of wrongful schizophrenia diagnoses in black patients comes as no surprise to many researchers. Historically, black elderly persons are more likely to live in nursing homes that have dismal rankings across most to all care quality measures. Not only that, but black nursing home residents tend to receive less care and worse care than white residents. This is true regardless of the type of health problems with which residents live.

The dangers of treating dementia patients with antipsychotic drugs

Antipsychotic medications drastically increase residents’ risks for various adverse health outcomes. For patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, such drugs can have dangerous or even fatal consequences. Antipsychotics increase dementia patients’ risk of falls and infections, and they double the risk of death.

Families that suspect the wrongful use of antipsychotic drugs for elderly loved ones are not without options. Several legal avenues exist to help them right wrongs and ensure the continued safety of their loved ones.