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Report shows U.S. nursing homes misusing medications

A new report says that many nursing homes in the U.S. misuse antipsychotic drugs to sedate residents.

A new report by international human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that nursing homes throughout the U.S. are misusing potentially deadly prescription drugs as a way to control elderly residents with dementia, reports CBS New York. The report claims that the misuse of prescription drugs is because nursing homes are frequently understaffed and many staff members are inadequately trained in how to deal with patients suffering from dementia. The misuse of the drugs, the report warns, could lead to serious injury and even death.

Over 100 facilities visited

As part of its report titled "They Want Docile," HRW visited more than 100 nursing home and long term care facilities throughout the United States and conducted more than 300 interviews with residents, their family members, nurses, patient advocates, and government officials. The report concluded that U.S. nursing homes give 179,000 residents antipsychotic drugs each week in order to sedate and control them.

The antipsychotic drugs are frequently being misused to treat patients suffering from dementia, despite the fact that the drugs are not approved for such use. In fact, there is no drug that is approved for the treatment of dementia. The HRW notes that antipsychotic drugs that are misused on older patients not only alter their consciousness but also double their risk of death. While the percentage of nursing residents being given antipsychotic drugs has dropped from 24 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2017, there is fear that many nursing homes are simply using other drugs to sedate residents that don't draw as much controversy or attention as antipsychotic drugs.

Patients and family left in the dark

What's worse is, as CNN reports, many residents and their family members are often left in the dark about the drugs being used on them or on their loved ones. Many were not informed about how dangerous antipsychotic drugs can be, while others say they felt pressured into agreeing to their use or else risk having their family members removed from the facility. Many family members say that their loved ones showed improvement when they were taken off the antipsychotic drugs, such as by conversing more and showing more awareness of their surroundings.

The antipsychotic drugs are often used on dementia patients because nursing homes themselves are understaffed, the nurses are overworked, and they frequently lack training for dealing with residents with dementia. However, there are methods for improving the quality of life and behavior of dementia patients without resorting to unapproved drugs, such as decreasing their loneliness and involving them in routine activities.

Medical malpractice law

For those whose loved ones may have been victims of medical malpractice, such as a medication error, it is important to reach out to a medical malpractice law firm as soon as possible. Medical malpractice cases are highly complex and require the assistance of a legal team that understands how to most effectively pursue claims on behalf of clients who may have been injured by a medical practitioner's alleged negligence or recklessness.