Is the nursing home giving your loved one antipsychotic drugs?

Nursing homes often give antipsychotic drugs to elderly residents without just cause to do so.

When people decide to place their loved one in a Cleveland nursing home, they trust that the person will receive care that is appropriate for the person's situation. Yet, sadly that does not always happen.

Drugging patients to control them

According to AARP, the lack of staff that are underpaid and undertrained on how to care for patients may contribute to the widespread use of antipsychotics. These drugs are often given to patients who are deemed difficult to deal with as a chemical restraint. In the U.S., there are about 15,000 nursing homes and it is estimated that antipsychotics are administered to one in five residents.

This is what happened to one woman, who died. The woman's daughter sued the nursing home for their failure to obtain consent from her before prescribing the powerful drug and the nursing home agreed to pay her an undisclosed settlement. The woman was supposed to be going through physical therapy but was given antipsychotics to control her as she had Alzheimer's.

The facts about antipsychotics

The Treatment Advocacy Center, a national organization that works to help people with mental health issues receive the treatment they need, states that antipsychotics change the chemical structure within the human brain. They are often used to treat people who struggle with bipolar or schizophrenia as these diseases destroy the normal chemical structure. The antipsychotic drugs have been shown in studies to improve the chemical structure, increasing neuron connection and decreasing gray matter in the brain.

As the drugs are administered, WebMD points out that symptoms associated with such disorders often decrease. These include depression associated with bipolar disorder, mania symptoms, delusions and hallucinations. However, it should be pointed out that these drugs are often intended to be used for only a limited amount of time - not as a permanent fix.

Effects on the elderly

When elderly patients are given antipsychotic drugs, they are at risk for several side effects. According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information, these include the following:

  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Pneumonia
  • Changes in blood count
  • Hypotension
  • Cardiac issues

In extreme cases, antipsychotic drugs have been connected to the death of some patients. Additionally, antipsychotic drugs can induce a comatose state where people become nonresponsive to things around them, including family members. Patients who once were talkative and engaging often turn into bodies that are sitting in a wheel chair staring without really seeing what is in front of them.

When nursing homes in Ohio fail to care for those they are in charge of, family members have rights. They may find it helpful to sit down with an experienced attorney and discuss their legal options.