White House against Antipsychotic Drug Use in Nursing Home Dementia Patients:

The use of antipsychotic drugs in elderly patients not diagnosed with schizophrenia falls into the category of nursing home medication errors, a common but lesser known aspect of nursing home neglect, and can lead to such serious issues as nursing home falls and nursing home infections such as bed sores.

Federal efforts toward thwarting inappropriate medical treatments for nursing home dementia patients will see a boost, according to a recent White House fact sheet. The fact sheet, issued on February 28, outlines a series of proposals for change in the nursing home industry, with the aim of improving safety, accountability, oversight, and transparency across the industry.

Coming as part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) initiative to ensure nursing home residents receive the sort of safe, high-quality, and dignity-preserving care that taxpayer money aims to fund, the measure of further reducing antipsychotic drug use in nursing homes comes as a response to the tendency of some nursing homes to use antipsychotic drugs to make dementia patients calmer and easier to control. Providing the wrong medication to elderly nursing home residents—particularly those with dementia—can lead to grave and frequently life-threatening conditions. This kind of negligence falls into the category of nursing home medication errors.

A recent New York Times investigation revealed the frequency with which false diagnoses of schizophrenia has led to inappropriate use of antipsychotics for elderly patients. While just one in 150 people in the general population are diagnosed with schizophrenia, one in nine elderly nursing home residents receive the diagnosis, even though schizophrenia is typically diagnosed before age 40. The Times went on to report that, although Medicare data indicates that less than 15 percent of nursing home residents use antipsychotics, the true percentage as revealed by the Times investigation is closer to 21 percent. This number translates to about 225,000 elderly residents currently on antipsychotics.

White House against antipsychotic drug use in nursing home dementia patients due to the fact that antipsychotic drugs are not only inappropriate, but also dangerous, for non-schizophrenic elderly people with dementia, and have been linked with the following problems:

  • Nursing Home FallsThe drowsiness produced by antipsychotic drugs often results in increased rates of nursing home falls and consequential injuries.
  • Bedsores and Other Infections-The sedation effects of antipsychotics can leave dementia patients practically immobilized. Remaining in one position for prolonged periods in beds or wheelchairs is a primary cause of bedsores which, if not tended to quickly, can escalate into serious infections.
  • Increased Heart ProblemsAntipsychotics have been linked to heart problems in people with dementia.
  • Wrongful DeathClinical trials have revealed that, in elderly dementia patients using antipsychotics, the risk of death nearly doubled for older dementia patients using these medications.

According to the White House fact sheet, noting the continued inappropriate nursing home diagnoses and subsequent dispensing of unnecessary medications, CMS intends to launch new efforts to complement its current program, the CMS National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes, with the aim of decreasing the unsuitable use of antipsychotic medications and upholding person-centered care for people with dementia.

Securing Your Loved One’s Safety

Determining the quality and safety of the Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home where your loved one lives is essential. Meeting health and safety standards and to ensuring the physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being of their residents is a requirement to which Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes must adhere. Should you have concerns about the quality of care in a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home, or if you suspect neglect, abuse, or fraud has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.