Misuse of Antipsychotics in the Nursing Home

doctor giving elder patient medication

All too often, nursing homes view antipsychotic medications as an easy way to control difficult or uncooperative patients. These drugs can be used to sedate residents so that they are less likely to wander off or act out, which saves the nursing home time and money. Sometimes, patients are given antipsychotics even when they do not have a diagnosable mental health condition; this is known as a chemical restraint.

A chemical restraint is any medication that is used for the primary purpose of managing a patient's behavior rather than treating a medical condition. Chemical restraints are illegal under federal law, but that doesn't stop some unscrupulous nursing homes from using them.

The Risks of Antipsychotics

Antipsychotic medications are potent drugs that can have severe side effects, especially when used on elderly patients with preexisting health conditions. Some of the most common risks associated with antipsychotics include:

Overmedicating nursing home patients with antipsychotic drugs is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. It is essential for family members of nursing home residents to be aware of the signs that their loved one is being overmedicated, such as:

  • Sudden changes in weight or appetite
  • Excessive drowsiness or lethargy
  • Changes in mood or personality.

Chemical Restraints in the Nursing Home

Federal law prohibits the use of chemical restraints on patients in nursing homes. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1987 includes a section called the Nursing Home Reform Amendments. These amendments state that any facility that receives Medicaid or Medicare funding must provide residents with "care and services" that "promote maintenance or enhancement of each resident's quality of life."

Specifically, one provision states:

"The right to be free of unnecessary and inappropriate physical and chemical restraints."

Protecting Your Loved One's Rights

If you suspect that your loved one is being overmedicated with antipsychotic drugs, it is important to speak up and contact an attorney who can help you protect your loved one's rights, ensure that they receive the care they deserve, and hold the responsible parties accountable. Nursing home abuse and neglect are all too common, but with the help of a skilled legal team, you can fight back against those who have hurt your loved one.

If you think your loved one is experiencing nursing home abuse, call us today at (866) 380-2281 for a free consultation.

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