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Antipsychotic Drugs Are Widely Misused in Nursing Homes

Each week in the U.S., nearly 300,000 nursing home residents are given antipsychotic medications. Shockingly, most of those residents don’t suffer from any form of psychosis. Misuse of antipsychotics has been a problem in nursing homes for decades, often worsened by pharmaceutical companies’ aggressive marketing efforts encouraging off-label use of the medications.

In many cases, these drugs are given to patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease as a “chemical restraint” to sedate or calm them. Studies have repeatedly shown that these medications offer no benefit for patients suffering from dementia. In fact, they could worsen the health of these vulnerable patients.

How Serious Is the Problem?

Approximately one out of every five residents in skilled nursing facilities are given antipsychotic medications. Some studies indicate that the problem is worse in nursing homes with higher proportions of Medicaid-reliant residents, suggesting that socioeconomically disadvantaged residents might be more susceptible to the misuse of antipsychotics.

In some cases, nursing homes don’t get informed consent from the patients or their families to administer these drugs, as is required by law. In other cases, these facilities fail to give patients or their families the information needed to understand the complications that might accompany the use of antipsychotic drugs.

Common Side Effects of Antipsychotic Medications

Antipsychotics affect individual users differently. However, some of the most common side effects for antipsychotic medications include:

  • Drowsiness

  • Shakiness

  • Blurred vision

  • Restlessness

  • Weight gain

  • Constipation

The side effects could cause particularly adverse effects in elderly people, especially those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The misuse of antipsychotics could result in:

  • An increased risk of falling

  • Changes in personality or mood

  • A worsening of heart issues

Families Must Be Vigilant About the Health of Their Loved Ones

Though nursing home resident advocates and some lawmakers have voiced concerns over the misuse of antipsychotic drugs, research suggests it remains a persistent problem in nursing homes across the U.S. Despite warnings from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, facilities continue to give elderly people unneeded—and potentially harmful—antipsychotics.

This means it’s often up to families to determine whether their loved ones are being given unnecessary antipsychotics by nursing home staff. If your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and displays any of the symptoms listed above, ask staff members at the facility if they’ve given your loved one antipsychotic medication.

Know That You Have Legal Options

If your loved one is being mistreated in a nursing home, you have legal options to get them the care they need. Though some law firms are reluctant to take cases in which residents or their family members signed arbitration agreements, attorney J.P. Sawyer is known in the Alabama legal community for his willingness to take these cases.

We believe that every abused, neglected, or injured nursing home resident deserves justice. If you’d like to explore your or your loved one’s legal options, we encourage you to schedule a free consultation with the Alabama nursing home injury attorneys at Sawyer Law Firm today. Our case reviews are free, and you’re under no obligation to move forward with a case if you don’t wish to do so.


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