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Federal Government Aims to Reduce Antipsychotic Use in Nursing Homes


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is stepping in to curtail nursing home abuse that is occurring in care facilities in the form of unnecessary over-drugging of patients. According to a 10News report, CMS has resolved to reduce antipsychotic use in nursing homes by 15 percent by the end of 2012. Nursing home advocates such as the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) are welcoming this move especially because government officials are now talking about specific numbers.

The problem of unnecessary and excessive use of antipsychotic drug use has become a serious problem in nursing homes in California and across the nation. Antipsychotic drugs were created to help patients cope with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. However, nursing homes have used them to treat other mental illnesses such as dementia, for which these drugs have not been approved. Nursing homes continue to use these drugs to sedate or “chemically restrain” nursing home patients despite repeated warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that doing so can cause death in the elderly.

Physical and Chemical Restraint in Nursing Homes

According to data released by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, more than 8 percent of California long-term nursing home residents were physically restrained in 2008. More than 25 percent of short-stay nursing home patients in California had pressure sores. Medicare statistics from 2010 show that 24.2 percent of residents in California’s nursing homes were on antipsychotics. Use of physical or chemical restraints in care facilities is often a sign of nursing home neglect and/or abuse.

Educating Care Providers

How does CMS intend to reach its goal by the end of the year? The department’s approach is going to be three-pronged, officials say. They will begin with enhanced training for nursing homes, explore alternatives to antipsychotic medication and require increased transparency in terms of documentation on the part of nursing homes. In July, CMS will post each nursing home’s antipsychotic drugging data online.

Protecting Victims’ Rights

Posting this data online will be a great guide for families that are looking to place their loved ones in nursing homes. Hopefully, it will also be a way to provide some incentive and motivation to nursing homes to explore alternatives to antipsychotic medications. In my opinion, it is absolutely unacceptable for nursing home staff to drug a patient just because they are having difficulties dealing with that patient. Nursing homes often resort to drugging patients because they simply do not have the quantity or quality of staff, who will come up with creative and alternative solutions to treat and handle patients. When nursing homes care more about their bottom line and profits rather than the people they are supposed to serve, the consequences can be devastating.

If you suspect that your loved one is being chemically or physically restrained or abused in a nursing home, talk to administrators. Please contact an experienced California personal injury lawyer, who has successfully handled nursing home abuse and neglect cases, to obtain more information about your legal rights and options.

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