For older individuals living with dementia, taking antipsychotic drugs nearly doubles their chance of death from heart problems, infections, and other serious ailments. But for years, nursing homes have used these drugs to control their patients who have dementia. Because of the increased risks to patients treated with antipsychotic medications, the government requires nursing homes to report the number of residents who are taking antipsychotics. However, the government does not keep a public record of residents who are prescribed antipsychotics if they are living with schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, or Hungtington’s disease. As a result, the New York Times reports that some doctors at nursing homes are diagnosing residents with one of these three diseases and then prescribing these patients with antipsychotics in order to avoid the requirement that they include these patients in their reported number of antipsychotic drug use. Nursing homes engaged in this practice have the goal of making their facility look more appealing to the public. Because of this practice, it has become harder to get an accurate portrayal of the rate of antipsychotic drug use on residents in nursing homes
If a nursing home has a high rate of antipsychotic drug use, the government may give the facility a lower “quality of resident care” rating, which in turn would have negative financial consequences for the nursing home. The rating system was designed by Medicare to help patients and families evaluate various facilities. Because antipsychotics have been approved for treating patients with schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, or Huntington’s disease, antipsychotic prescriptions in these instances are not included in a facility’s public tracking. As a result, some nursing home facilities have used this as a loophole to hide the true number of residents who are on antipsychotic medications. According to Medicare data, since 2012 the number of residents diagnosed with schizophrenia has increased 70 percent.
Medicare’s website reports that less than 15 percent of nursing home residents are on antipsychotics, but because of the loophole, this number does not accurately include patients who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. It is suspected that some understaffed nursing homes are using antipsychotic drugs to more easily subdue patients so that these facilities do not have to hire additional staff.
In a similar fashion, Depakote is a medication used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder and is known for making individuals drowsy. Although some studies have shown that it does not help with dementia and it has not been approved by the government, the rate of prescription of Depakote has risen. Although nursing homes are required to federally report the number of patients they have that take a variety of psychotropic drugs, nursing homes do not have to report the use of Depakote.
An attorney experienced in nursing home neglect and abuse can help you or your loved one understand the damages you may be entitled to as a result of wrongful treatment experienced while in care.
Contact the Dedicated Maryland Nursing Home Attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen
If you suspect that a loved one is being mistreated by staff at a Maryland nursing home, contact the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen for immediate assistance. We are experienced in assisting individuals and families in claims against negligent or abusive nursing homes throughout Maryland. To schedule a free consultation, call 800-654-1949 today.