Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat psychosis and mental conditions. Many of the drugs classified as an antipsychotic are tranquilizers, which makes a person groggy and tired. Chemical restraint occurs when someone uses medication to sedate a patient. Nursing homes sometimes use antipsychotics to control “problem behavior,” such as anxiety, wandering and confusion. Toby Edelman, an attorney with Center for Medicare Advocacy Inc., reports that about 41.8 percent of nursing home residents are being given antipsychotic medications in violation of prescribing guidelines.
Nursing homes use antipsychotic medications as restraints because of an increase in residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, a lack of staffing and staff training, and possibly due to improving profits. Although insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid are doing everything they can to reduce the use of antipsychotic medications, it does still occur. Seniors who take antipsychotics have an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, seizures and uncontrolled tremors. Using these medications is not only dehumanizing but also bad for a person’s overall health.
Alternatives to antipsychotic medications
Nursing homes should treat the organic causes of problem behaviors. Patients with dementia need more attention when the behavior becomes challenging. Studies show that behavioral redirection provides alternatives to medication. Many seniors just become bored and need stimulation, such as more activities during the day. Many nursing homes are moving to a system of “patient first” care, in which the patients decide whether they want to eat or sleep or not. Instead of making the patient fit the system, they give the patient the right to choose.
If your loved one is taking antipsychotics, you may need to be their voice to make sure they understand what they are taking and why. The misuse of medication in a nursing home is abuse and should not be tolerated. If your mom or dad suffered an injury on this medication, you might want to discuss this with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can provide an assessment of your situation.