How antipsychotics are used unnecessarily in nursing homes

When you make the decision that it is best for your parent or loved one to live in a nursing home, you trust the staff will provide the care and compassion she or he needs. Unfortunately, there are a shocking number of instances of abuse and neglect in nursing homes. Some cases take the form of physical harm while others involve medical errors. The latter often involves unnecessary prescription of drugs such as antipsychotics. You can better understand this issue by reading the following reasons it has become a problem.

It is seen as an easy fix

One of the reasons antipsychotics are commonly prescribed is because of patients’ supposed behavioral problems. The prescription may be preceded by a report of aggressive, volatile or even violent behavior, and this may be used as justification for the prescription. Whether or not these reports are accurate, antipsychotics are often treated as an easy fix for any apparent behavioral issue.

Doctors may benefit financially

According to AARP, there have been several settlements in recent years against pharmaceutical companies that aggressively marketed their drugs to nursing homes and offered compensation to physicians who prescribed them. Some compensation even occurred at the institutional level as drug companies incentivized long-term care providers to prescribe antipsychotic treatments to patients. The potential financial benefit has motivated many healthcare providers to give patients drugs they do not need.

Consent can be feigned

In addition to financial incentive, it is easy for antipsychotics to be prescribed needlessly because many patients lack the mental faculty to understand the medications they are taking. Informed consent provided either by the patient or the patient’s legal guardian is necessary for a patient to begin a new prescription, but abusive health care providers can take advantage of the vulnerability and either feign or overlook consent completely. This directly violates the patient’s rights and puts him or her at an enormous risk.

Addiction may result

Once antipsychotics have been prescribed, patients are liable to become addicted and unable to quit the medication. This perpetuates the cycle of needlessly prescribing the medicine, and it allows abusive health care providers to justify continuing the dosage. In some cases, patients who had antipsychotics taken away exhibited behavioral problems that were not present prior to the prescription.

If you suspect a loved one may have been prescribed unnecessary medication in a nursing home, you should explore your available legal options. An experienced attorney can help you better understand the next step.