Nursing homes may be overprescribing antipsychotic drugs

1e4e292b d965 4576 8b13 36493e78e872GP pill bottleMore than 300,000 nursing home residents across the country are receiving antipsychotic medications, according to a federal study.

These drugs are typically used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. But a large number of nursing homes are prescribing them for residents with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. These patients can experience anxiety and aggression, and nursing homes sometimes prescribe them in order to calm the patient down.

The problem is that when these drugs are prescribed inappropriately, they can increase the risk of heart failure, infections, and other serious health problems.

Antipsychotic drugs have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat dementia. In addition, federal law prohibits using drugs simply to restrain nursing home residents, and requires nursing homes to get the consent of the resident or his or her personal representative before prescribing antipsychotics. So you might be able to bring legal action if a nursing home broke the rules and caused someone harm.

Some nursing homes have been known to seek "consent" by casually mentioning to family members that they plan to give the resident "something to calm them down," without fully explaining the seriousness of the drugs involved. It's a good idea to ask questions and get all the details about any new medications.