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Do nursing homes abuse the use of antipsychotics?

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2024 | Nursing Home Abuse |

The use of antipsychotics in nursing homes raises serious concerns. Many believe nursing homes overuse these medications to manage residents, especially those with dementia.

This practice can lead to harmful effects on the elderly.

Purpose of antipsychotics

According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, as many as 5 million seniors experience abuse every year. The purpose of antipsychotics is to treat conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. However, nursing homes often use them to control behaviors associated with dementia, such as aggression or agitation. This off-label use is controversial and risky. Studies show that antipsychotics can cause severe side effects in elderly patients, including increased risks of falls, strokes and even death.

Reasons for overuse

The primary reason for this overuse is convenience. Caring for residents with dementia can be challenging. Antipsychotics can sedate patients, making them easier to manage. However, this practice often neglects the residents’ true needs. Instead of addressing the underlying causes of their behaviors, nursing homes use medication as a quick fix.

Systemic issues

This issue reflects broader systemic problems. Many nursing homes do not have sufficient staff and lack proper training for dealing with dementia patients. Providing adequate care requires time, patience and specialized skills. Unfortunately, under these pressures, nursing homes may resort to using antipsychotics as a shortcut.

Regulations and enforcement

Regulations exist to curb the misuse of antipsychotics in nursing homes. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has guidelines to prevent inappropriate use. However, enforcement of these regulations is inconsistent. Some facilities follow the guidelines strictly, while others do not.

Advocates for the elderly call for better oversight and stricter penalties for non-compliance. They also emphasize the need for alternative approaches to managing dementia-related behaviors. Non-drug interventions, such as personalized care plans, environmental adjustments and therapeutic activities, can be effective and safer.