ANTIPSYCHOTIC DRUGS IN NURSING HOMES

Did anyone read the Associated Press article in today’s issue of the Roanoke Times? The article, “Push is Under Way to Reduce Drugs for Dementia Patients,” tells a very sad…but very common story.

The story reports how antipsychotic medications (examples include Haldol, Serenace, Zyprexa, Clozaril, etc.) are meant to help control hallucinations, delusions, and other abnormal behavior in people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The problem occurs when nursing homes give antipsychotics to “hundreds of thousands of elderly nursing home patients” to pacify their behavior. This is a nice way of saying antipsychotics are given to residents to limit their ability to communicate, socialize, or participate in everyday life.

Why you may ask? Because it is easier (read cheaper) to care for a resident who just lies in his/her bed all day long and makes few demands upon the nursing staff. This reduced level of care allows the nursing home to hire maybe 2 fewer nurses per shift. At three shifts per day and 365 days per year it can add up to some additional profit.

My Take: If your family member is placed on antipsychotics make sure there is a documented reason for the medication. Also do your own research and make sure the dosage level is appropriate and starts out on the low end. No one wants their loved one turned into a “zombie” just so the nursing home can put a few more dollars in their pockets at the end of the year.

Dan Frith
Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at dfrith@frithlawfirm.com.