A warning about antipsychotic medication issues in nursing homes

Making the decision to go into a nursing home isn't an easy choice for some people. For some people, the fear of losing freedoms and being placed medications is one reason why going into a nursing home is difficult. While some people might think those fears are unreasonable, they are actually very valid fears. Our Kentucky readers might find some of this information intriguing. 

Antipsychotic drugs are being given to almost 300,000 nursing home residents. These drugs are approved to treat mental illnesses that are considered serious. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are two of the mental illnesses that might require antipsychotic drugs. Sadly, some nursing homes are using these drugs to combat aggression and anxiety that is often caused by dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

The trouble comes when you consider the black box warning on these boxes. Not only could the nursing home resident drugged into a stupor on these medications, but they can also suffer from severe medical issues because of them. The black box warning includes information about an increased risk of infections, heart failure and even death.

Just to be perfectly clear - federal law says that these medications can't be used solely for the convenience of staff. That is, staff members must have a medical basis for giving antipsychotics and psychoactive drugs to patients. That medical basis must be documented.

Anyone who has a loved one in a nursing home should be aware of what medications the resident is being given. Some clues that these medications are being used include the person seeming out of touch with reality or the nursing home saying the resident was given something for a condition like agitation. If a loved one has been given one of these medications without a medical need, legal action might be an option you choose to pursue.

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