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Overmedication may result in nursing home deaths

The frail health of many nursing home residents requires them to be cared for more closely and precisely medicated. One mistake can be fatal, especially for elderly residents who suffer from illnesses like schizophrenia and dementia. However, many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have used anti-psychotic drugs as a means of chemical restraint to subdue patients although they do not require the medication. This practice has resulted in the worsened condition of residents and even nursing home death. Pennsylvanians who have loved ones in a nursing home should be wary of such practices.

Federal law forbids nursing homes from using psychoactive or anti-psychotic drugs simply for the convenience of nursing home staff. Facilities caught improperly administering these drugs could face corrective action plans, fines or even a loss of Medicaid or Medicare funding but, so far, very few offenses have been punished. However, those who have relatives in a nursing home should not be complacent about this practice. Unnecessarily medicating residents who are not only advanced in age but also have fragile health is an incredibly serious matter.

Both non-profit groups and well-meaning nursing homes have cooperated with the federal government in an attempt to reduce or eliminate, the non-essential use of anti-psychotic drugs. Unfortunately, nearly 300,000 nursing homes nationwide still use the drugs. Nonetheless, strides have been made -- the amount of these drugs in nursing homes has decreased by over 15 percent. A goal to further reduce the use of anti-psychotic drugs is in the works.

Pennsylvanians who suspect nursing home abuse, whether it is due to chemical restraint or any other reason, should deal with the matter immediately. If the situation leads to the death of a loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit is a course of action Pennsylvanians may wish to consider in order to hold a nursing home liable.

Source: National Monitor, "Nursing home receive no punishment while overdosing," Stephen Jordan, Dec. 10, 2014

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