Over Medication in Nursing Homes

Over 4 million Americans are admitted to or reside in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities each year and nearly one million persons reside in assisted living facilities.

In an average week, nursing facilities in the United States administer antipsychotic drugs to over 179,000 people who do not have diagnoses for which the drugs are approved. Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization, says the drugs are often given without free and informed consent.

Most of these individuals have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. According to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), facilities often use the drugs to control common symptoms of the disease.

As the director of nursing at one facility in Kansas told Human Rights Watch, “antipsychotics are a go-to thing.” This is unacceptable.

Warning signs of unnecessary and potentially dangerous over medication include lethargy, lack of communication, fear, and general overall malaise. Studies support that rate of death in dementia patients nearly doubles. The material cost to society and the emotional toll on the individual and family is monumental.

(Here is a link to impacts on some seniors and their families - https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/interactive/2018/02/05/nursing-homes.)

Using drugs as a chemical restraint—whether for staff convenience or to discipline or punish a resident—may constitute abuse under domestic law and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under international law. This inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs in older people as well as the administration of the drugs without informed consent, can cause injury and death.

Jeffrey Adams, Esq.
and Reuven Epstein, Esq.

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