The number is staggering and suggests a resounding "yes" to the question, are nursing homes over medicating its residents? A reported 71% of nursing home residents are being treated for mental health issues. While I have no doubt that a certain portion of this percentage is necessary and legitimate treatment, I have to wonder what percentage of that number is for unnecessary and illegitimate reasons; namely, to make difficult residents calm and "cooperative." This is form of deliberate over-medicating is a form of nursing home abuse.
What is even more alarming is that of the 71% of residents receiving mental health treatment, most of them received no such treatment in the months leading up to their admission. Now, of course, there can be several factors for this large increase in mental health treatment and I would suspect that nursing home directors would argue that these residents should have been receiving mental health treatment and only received the proper treatment upon admission. The other more cynical view is that once admitted, nursing home staff finds that residents are much easier to deal with when medicated.
Unfortunately, many nursing homes opt for medication as the mental health treatment of choice over therapy or utilizing behavior changes, sometimes upsetting patients. While there are patients - ie. those with advanced dementia or Alzheimer's disease - that are not candidates for therapy sessions due to their illness, there are many residents that may benefit from this modality.
Residents and family of nursing home residents, if they are unable to make decisions for themselves, have the right to opt out of anti-psychotic medications. While I am not advocating and all out ban on these medications, I do urge that residents and families seriously consider the risks and benefits of taking same, discuss other treatment options with their family physician, and make an informed decision about whether these medications are the right choice of treatment and which nursing home is best for their loved ones.
If you have concerns that a nursing home may be over-medicating a loved one, please contact a member of the Complex Personal Injury team, toll free, at 866-414-0400 to discuss your potential case and all information is maintained in strict confidence.