Many families with aging loved ones entrust a nursing home to care for their seniors. Unfortunately, not all facilities handle their duties appropriately.
Some institutions have even committed gross injustices against those in their care. This situation has moved the federal authorities to examine concerns about the suspected misuse of antipsychotics.
A growing concern in elder care
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sets quality standards for long-term care facilities. Recently, this agency started investigations into nursing home prescribing practices.
The motivation stems from a revealing Health and Human Services report. This document highlights a surge in the usage of antipsychotic drugs within nursing facilities.
Medical professionals typically recommend antipsychotic medications for patients with schizophrenia and related disorders. However, the HHS report discerns a trend of nursing homes using these medications simply for sedating patients.
Potential abuse through misdiagnosis
The law mandates that nursing homes report the use of antipsychotic drugs. Since qualifying conditions are rare, the numbers for these prescriptions should be relatively low.
However, various facilities appear to be finding covert ways to bypass this guideline. These institutions seem to falsely label residents as schizophrenic without an official diagnosis. In fact, dozens of these facilities claim that 20% of residents have schizophrenia, raising the alarm.
Interestingly, the study also found that nursing homes with staff shortages tended to prescribe antipsychotics at higher rates. Groups catering to lower-income residents also followed this pattern.
Questionable practices and increased risks
These drugs are not harmless and can lead to severe consequences. Side effects include indigestion, cardiac dysfunction and even wrongful death. Other symptoms of antipsychotic medication abuse encompass disruptions in metabolic function.
As a result, a patient can experience weight gain or the onset of type 2 diabetes, irregular heartbeats and low blood pressure. These risks increase when patients receive conflicting medications.
The ongoing investigations are only a first step toward protecting residents. Individual families may have to do their own due diligence to ensure a safe environment for their senior loved ones.