Anti-psychotic medications can be used to effectively inhibit aggressive or combative behavior in people who suffer from schizophrenia or disorders with similar symptoms. However, because anti-psychotics can also cause sudden blood pressure drops, irregular heart rhythms and other serious health problems in people who suffer from dementia -- government regulators say that these powerful drugs should not be used on nursing home residents who have Alzheimer's or other ailments related to dementia.
Call it a medication error or deliberate abuse, a recent newspaper investigation based on government data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request has uncovered evidence that suggests in 2010 alone, roughly 185,000 U.S. nursing home residents received such drugs even though their conditions did not warrant it.
At one nursing home, in particular, reporters found that nearly 20 percent of the residents who were receiving anti-psychotic drugs did not have a diagnosis recommending their use. Reporters also found that similar problems exist at more than one out of every five nursing homes nationwide.
The question is, why?
According to nursing home industry representatives, many of same nursing home residents who suffer from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are also combative and pose dangers to themselves, other residents and staff members alike. Industry representatives claim that anti-psychotics are often prescribed as a response to those dangers and also point out that government data does not reflect the fact that the drugs are typically administered in lower-than-normal doses.
Whether those claims are accurate or not, the fact remains that there have been a countless number of reported cases in which nursing home staff were found to have purposefully and abusively used powerful medications as a means to control or restrain patients. For now, West Virginia residents who suspect that a loved one has been the victim of a medication error or medication abuse in a nursing home should voice their concerns and consider talking to an attorney.
Source: USA Today, "Report: Anti-psychotics wrongly prescribed in nursing homes," Melanie Eversley, April 29, 2012