Caring for elderly residents in Kentucky nursing homes can be challenging. Residents that have dementia in addition to other physical consequences of aging need extra attention and care to ensure that they remain clean, well fed, and safe. Not all caregivers are able to handle their job with understanding and patience. Stressed, overworked staff often resort to giving antipsychotic medications to difficult or high-maintenance residents.

The Landscape in Nursing Homes

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than half of the residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have some degree of dementia or cognitive impairment. In 2007, more than 5 million people had Alzheimer’s disease; by 2050, the number is expected to reach about 16 million.

Nursing home employees often plead for better wages and working conditions, including enough staff to take care of all of the residents properly. Caregivers point out that nursing-home owners siphon off much of the profit that should be put back into improving the quality of the facilities. Studies repeatedly show that understaffing harms not only the overworked employees but the residents as well, who are more likely to be abused or neglected.

A Dangerous Alternative to Adequate Staffing

To analyze the use of antipsychotic drugs in U.S. nursing homes, Becky A. Briesacher, PhD, and her colleagues at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester reviewed prescription-dispensing data during 2009 and 2010 from Omnicare Inc. This large, long-term care pharmacy serves 48 states and half of all U.S. nursing home residents. The results of this research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, include the following:

  • In the study sample of 1,402,039 nursing home residents, 308,449 (22 percent) were prescribed at least one antipsychotic medication.
  • More than two thirds of these medications were prescribed off label, meaning that they were not used to treat a condition for which they had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • The drugs prescribed, primarily indicated to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, included quetiapine fumarate, brand name Seroquel (31.1 percent); risperidone, brand name Risperdal (24.4 percent); and olanzapine, brand name Zyprexa (13.1 percent).
  • Only 7.5 percent of the residents tracked for a three-month period received only one antipsychotic medication.

This Is Progress

Although the prevalence of off-label antipsychotic use is troubling, it is down since the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA ’87) was passed. OBRA ’87 sought to eliminate the inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Among the requirements of this legislation are these:

  • Antipsychotics should only be prescribed to treat a diagnosed condition, which has been documented in a patient’s medical record.
  • Unless a clinical reason exists to continue the medication, the dosage of such drugs must be gradually reduced.

Has Your Loved One Been Injured In A Nursing Home?

If you believe your loved one is being subjected to nursing home abuse you need to speak with an experienced Kentucky nursing home neglect attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 888.450.4456 to schedule a free consultation.

Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law