Is Your Nursing Home Putting Your Loved One on Unnecessary Antipsychotic Drugs?

Written by
Abraham Jaros
Updated on Thursday, Oct 26, 2023

Nearly 68% of nursing home residents with dementia are given antipsychotic drugs despite having no diagnosis of psychosis. 16.1% of all nursing home residents are given antipsychotic drugs regardless of whether or not those residents have any need for the drug at all.

These drugs can be extremely dangerous.

“Antipsychotic drugs—which for decades have faced criticism as chemical straitjackets—are dangerous for older people with dementia, nearly doubling their chance of death from heart problems, infections, falls, and other ailments." —The New York Times

Nursing homes often resort to chemical straitjackets when they do not have enough staff members to handle their populations. They do this rather than raising wages for their staff members or making the job more attractive.

If you see a change in your loved one’s behavior, or find they are sleeping constantly and cannot be roused, even to eat, then there is a chance your loved one may be on antipsychotic drugs. They may also show signs of dizziness and confusion.

You have the right to ask for a care plan conference to determine what drugs have been prescribed, why they were prescribed, and what the side effects of each drug may be. Even if your loved one has a history of mental illness there may be less-dangerous remedies available to the staff. Your loved one has the right to refuse these medications.

The most common drugs include:

  • Aripiprazole/Abilify
  • Clozapine/Clozaril
  • Haloperidol/Haldol
  • Olanzapine/Zyprexa
  • Quetiapine/Seroquel
  • Risperidone/Risperdal
  • Ziprasidone/Geodon

There are also increases in the use of Depakote, a medication used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder. The drug can make people drowsy and increases fall risks. This drug is often sprinkled into the food of residents, and might not be part of any official care plan. It is becoming a favorite because the government does not require nursing homes to report on the use of this drug. If you see signs of chemical restraint and can’t find any explanations in the care plan, then this may be a sign that your loved one is being abused.

Over prescription of antipsychotic drugs is a form of nursing home abuse. If your loved one is a victim, it may be possible to attain compensation on their behalf, money that can be used to move them to a better care facility or to obtain at-home care.

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