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The problem of nursing homes misusing antipsychotic drugs

by | Feb 6, 2023 | Nursing Home Abuse And Neglect

When an elderly loved one moves into a nursing home, their family expects that they will be properly and appropriately cared for.

Unfortunately, not all nursing homes are trustworthy or ethical. Nursing homes often misuse antipsychotic drugs on patients who do not need them.

Why do nursing homes misuse antipsychotic drugs?

Diagnoses such as dementia are common among the elderly. Dementia causes erratic behavior, aggression and wandering. Other disorders with similar symptoms make patients challenging to care for. Nursing homes use antipsychotic drugs to sedate elderly patients so that they do not require as much attention from the staff. The drugged patients remain drowsy, docile and non-functional.

What is the intended use of antipsychotic drugs?

Antipsychotic drugs treat schizophrenia and other psychotic mental disorders. Signs of schizophrenia include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, impaired speech and abnormal motor behavior. These symptoms impair a patient’s ability to complete normal daily functions.

How is the misuse of antipsychotic drugs occurring?

Since 2012, the federal government has tracked how nursing homes use antipsychotic drugs. Some are misusing antipsychotic drugs by misdiagnosing residents with schizophrenia when they show no signs of the disorder, while other nursing homes are reporting that patients have schizophrenia without a corresponding diagnosis.

Antipsychotic drugs come with the risk of dangerous side effects including uncontrolled movements, confusion, heart disease, increased fall risk, weight gain and death. For patients who actually have schizophrenia, the risk of the side effects may be worth it. Giving these powerful drugs to patients who do not need them puts the patients at risk for these side effects for no reason.