The Danger of Overused Antipsychotics in Kentucky Nursing Homes

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Nursing home workers have challenging jobs. They do the essential work of caring for residents and keeping them safe. Their job requires understanding, patience, support, and training. Otherwise, a nursing home worker may become frustrated, stressed, and overworked. In these situations, staff may make the dangerous and ethically questionable decision to administer antipsychotics to difficult or high-maintenance residents in Kentucky nursing homes.

Why Antipsychotics Are Used in Kentucky Nursing Homes

Often, antipsychotics are not used for psychosis or related conditions. Instead, they are used as “chemical straitjackets” to control agitated behavior in nursing home residents. 

Kentucky nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are often the victims of off-label antipsychotic drug administration. People with these conditions may be agitated and aggressive, wander, and require significant staff attention.

Understaffed nursing homes and nursing homes with high staff turnover may be unable to care for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia and may turn to antipsychotic drugs for help. Studies indicate that understaffed nursing homes have higher rates of antipsychotic drug use.

Risk of Antipsychotics to Nursing Home Residents

While antipsychotics may make nursing home residents more compliant and easier to deal with for nursing home workers, these drugs present a significant risk for the patient. Specifically, antipsychotic medication may nearly double a resident’s chance of death from infections, heart issues, falls, and other conditions. At the same time, antipsychotic use may interfere with their quality of life.

History of Antipsychotic Use Reform in Nursing Homes

In 1987, President Reagan signed a law that banned the use of medication that benefited nursing home workers rather than patients.

In 2012, the government began making nursing homes report how many residents were receiving antipsychotic drugs. This information is used as part of a nursing home’s quality of resident care score. However, nursing homes are not required to report the use of antipsychotic medication if the medication is used to treat schizophrenia, Huntington’s disease, or Tourette’s syndrome.

How Antipsychotics Are Used in Kentucky Nursing Homes Today

Since 2012, the number of nursing home residents diagnosed with schizophrenia has increased by 70%. In 2021, one of every nine nursing home residents had a schizophrenia diagnosis compared with one of every 150 people in the general population. Age alone cannot account for this discrepancy since schizophrenia is almost always diagnosed before a person reaches age 40.

In 2021, the New York Times reported that at least 21% of nursing home residents—that’s approximately 225,000 people—are on antipsychotic medication.

Medicare reportedly intended to conduct targeted inspections concerning false schizophrenia diagnoses in 2021. However, those inspections were delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

dangers of antipsychotics in Kentucky nursing homesOff-Label Antipsychotics Are Overused

The off-label use of antipsychotics in Kentucky nursing homes to control residents doesn’t just occur at one-star nursing homes. It’s a problem across all nursing homes, even those widely considered to be the best in the industry.

Now is the time to take action if you notice signs that your loved one may be on antipsychotic drugs. These signs include:

  • Listlessness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Disinterest in things they used to enjoy

You should also contact us if you are told your loved one is on an antipsychotic medication or you see a note in their chart about an antipsychotic medication, and they do not have a medical need for these drugs. Some medications to watch for include:

  • Abilify (aripiprazole)
  • Seroquel (quetiapine)
  • Risperdal (Risperidone)
  • Clozaril (Clozapine)
  • Haldol (Haloperidol)
  • Zyprexa (Olanzapine)
  • Geodon (Ziprasidone)

Nursing homes have choices. With appropriate staffing levels, nursing homes can use strategies other than antipsychotic medications to keep residents safe.

Contact Our Kentucky Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers if Your Loved One is Hurt by Antipsychotics

Our nursing home attorneys purposefully represent a small number of clients at a time so that we can treat each client like family. We believe that every nursing home resident should live with dignity and that nursing homes should be held accountable for all incidents of abuse and neglect.

We encourage you to contact our experienced Kentucky nursing home abuse lawyers for a free, no-obligation consultation as soon as possible if you believe the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medication hurt your loved one.

Additionally, we invite you to download a free copy of our report, Fighting Back Against Nursing Home Abuse: What Families Need to Know to Help Their Loved One, today.

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