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Pennsylvania nursing home patients may be overmedicated

Baby boomers in America are quickly reaching retirement age and beyond. With the aging of the population comes an increase in the number of people relying on nursing homes and assisted living facilities to meet their day-to-day needs. These centers are trusted by families every day to take care of their loved ones, many of whom have complex medical needs. The doctors, nurses and other staff are expected to treat nursing home residents with the utmost care.

Unfortunately, too many nursing homes fall short of this expectation. Nursing home abuse is not unheard of in Pennsylvania and around the country. Patients with dementia, Alzheimer's and other memory loss conditions are particularly susceptible to abuse, including overmedication with antipsychotic drugs.

Despite their serious potential side effects, including an increased risk of falls, stroke and even death, antipsychotic drugs were overprescribed to more than 17 percent of nursing home residents in 2010. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services takes the issue so seriously that it launched an initiative specifically to reduce the use of these drugs and instead focus on care strategies that do not involve the use of drugs. It also offers training for staff and an online portal to report and track the use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes.

Many patients still are given unnecessarily dangerous doses of drugs that could potentially cause a nursing home death. When overmedication or other negligence causes the death of a patient, that patient's family has legal recourse. Through a wrongful death suit, these families can seek to be compensated by a negligent nursing home; this compensation can help protect a family's economic stability during a vulnerable time..

Source: MedPage Today, "Psych Drug Use in Nursing Homes on Decline," Cole Petrochko, Aug. 28, 2013