Overuse of Antipsychotic Drugs in Nursing Homes Remains Problem, Putting Some Residents in Grave Danger

When a family places a loved one in a Maryland nursing home, the family leaves their loved one in the care of the home and its medical providers. Yet the medical providers may not always be doing what is best for the resident—and could even be putting the resident in danger.

If a resident passes away at a nursing home, one question to ask is which medications the resident was being given before the resident’s death. If the resident was given improper medication, the family may be able to bring a claim against the nursing home for the wrongful death of the resident.

Wrongful Death Claims in Maryland

A wrongful death claim is meant to compensate family members for the loss of their family member’s death due to the wrongful act of another person. Maryland’s Wrongful Death Act allows a wrongful death claim to be made “against a person whose wrongful act causes the death of another.” Normally, the claim must be made within three years of the family member’s death.

Antipsychotics Still Overprescribed to Residents

According to one news source, research conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that the percentage of long-term nursing home residents being given antipsychotic drugs has decreased in recent years. However, elderly care advocacy groups say that the usage of antipsychotic drugs is still high, particularly because elderly individuals with dementia have a higher risk of death when they are treated with antipsychotic drugs. Some advocates argue they should never be used under those circumstances, and they are often used simply to sedate residents. Another doctor commented that some nursing homes may be using other medications that sedate patients in place of antipsychotics.

A report was recently released by Human Rights Watch on the improper use of antipsychotic drugs. The report found that although nursing home residents have strong legal protections, those protections are often not enforced. The report estimated that there are around 179,000 nursing home residents who receive antipsychotics every week without having a diagnosis that is approved for treatment with antipsychotic drugs.

One woman whose mother has dementia and has been in three different nursing homes said that she was left alone for hours in her wheelchair after being given antipsychotics. When she tried to stop the medication, some staff members told her that her mother would have to leave the residence if they stopped giving her antipsychotics. However, antipsychotics have a warning cautioning against their use for frail elderly patients or patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The Food and Drug Administration warns that these drugs are dangerous and possibly fatal for residents with dementia, due to the increased risk of stroke, falls, diabetes, heart attack, and death. In addition, antipsychotic drugs can alter an individual’s consciousness and affect the person’s ability to interact with other people. Nursing homes are required to obtain consent from residents or others representing them, but they often fail to obtain the required consent.

Has Your Loved One Received Antipsychotic Drugs at a Nursing Home?

If you suspect a family member or loved one has improperly been given antipsychotic drugs at a nursing home, contact a Maryland nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. Nursing home residents are entitled to proper care, and a nursing home attorney can help you determine whether you should pursue a lawsuit against the facility. At Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers, we have nearly two decades of experience representing victims throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. For a free consultation, contact us at 1-800-654-1949 or 410-654-3600 or by filling out our online form.

More Blog Posts:

A Follow-Up on the 12 Post-Irma Nursing Home Deaths, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published January 19, 2018.

Resident-on-Resident Abuse Is Prevalent in Maryland Nursing Homes, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published February 7, 2018.

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