Over-Medication of Virginia Nursing Home Residents

The over-medication of nursing home patients is a major problem.

By overmedication, I don’t mean too many pills for various acute or chronic conditions – but rather, whether patients are given too much of a medication such that their behavior was altered, or their behavior subdued.

Think overdose. Think somnolent, sleepy, not easy to awake, “out of it,” drugged, etc.

The U.S. Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has been encouraging nursing home physicians to find alternatives for the overuse of anti-psychotics in elderly patients. Doctors were prescribing drugs like Haldol, Seroquel, or Abilify to dementia patients despite warnings that such medications are not approved for use in elderly populations.

What happens when nursing home residents get too many antipsychotic drugs?

The answer: Falls. Accidents. Dehydration. Decline.

So where are we after years of this discussion? According to this week’s Wall Street Journal, the use of these medications is declining.

But despite the nationwide trend, I am still seeing overmedication of  Virginia patients in nursing home settings. Tragically, there is very little communication with families as to the risks of these medications compared to the minor benefits.

If your loved one is in a nursing home, ask for a copy of the Medication Order sheet – or 1 month of the MARS (Medication Administration Records). Take a few minutes to look up each medication on the web, and have a conversation with your loved ones’ doctor about why certain medications are being prescribed. OR, if you are noticing a change in your loved one’s behavior, their level of alertness, etc – ask for an immediate meeting with the doctor and director of nursing to discuss possible causes.

The bottom line: Be proactive. While a downward decline in the use of these medications is positive, don’t assume your loved one is part of that trend.

Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.