Many individuals who live in a nursing home can no longer properly measure out and take their own medication in a timely manner. Because of that, they rely on staff to provide the appropriate dosages at the right times.
However, despite U.S. law prohibiting nursing homes from the unnecessary use of medication on residents, this continues to be a major issue plaguing the industry. Sedatives, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety medication end up used frequently in attempts to make elderly residents “easier to manage”, among other reasons.
Reasons for misuse
Human Rights Watch notes the misuse of drugs in handling nursing home residents. As mentioned, many turn to this practice as an attempt to make their resident base easier to manage. This may happen due to understaffing, i.e. simply not having the manpower to care for everyone appropriately.
In some darker cases, it happens due to unscrupulous staff or institutions wishing to exert power and control over their residents. They use this tactic of over-medicating to keep residents docile and calm, which makes them easier to control in turn. Sometimes, they will even use over-medication as a form of discipline or punishment toward “unruly” residents.
Sometimes, over-medication also ends up used to stop disruptive behavior, especially in patients with dementia or other memory degrading-based illnesses. Unfortunately, these “disruptive” symptoms often indicate pain or discomfort, which leads to staff ignoring potentially harmful situations because the patient no longer shows these signs.
How prevalent is this issue?
Washington Post states that as many as 179,000 residents get unnecessary antipsychotic drugs every year. Over 15 percent of all residents in a nursing home for over 100 days also get unnecessary antipsychotics, so the chance of it happening to your loved one is, unfortunately, higher than you might want to think.