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The Surprising Problem of Substance Abuse in Nursing Homes

Garcia & Artigliere

Substance abuse problems are more common in nursing homes than many people realize. The problem remains hidden because of two common beliefs – that nursing home patients are all elderly, and that older people don’t have substance abuse problems. Both of these are beliefs are wrong.

Some Nursing Home Residents Are Young

Contrary to popular belief, about 15 percent of nursing home residents are younger than 65. These younger residents may have problems, such as behavioral issues, that are different from the medical problems of the older residents. Some of the younger residents may be addicted to street drugs. For example, a nursing home in Chicago reported five of its residents aged 33 to 60 died from heroin overdoses.

Older People Can Have Substance Abuse Problems Too

Substance abuse among the elderly is a rapidly growing problem. By the year 2020, an estimated 5.7 million seniors in the United States will be dealing with substance abuse problems. Many of the substance abuse problems of older people involve alcohol, including dangerous interactions that occur when people drink alcohol while taking prescribed or over-the-counter medications.

The problem of opioid addiction has become a national crisis. However, not everyone is aware that the problem also affects the elderly. A shocking one-third of Medicare recipients receive prescriptions for at least one opioid, and on average, they receive five opioid prescriptions per year. Making the problem even worse is that drug-addicted seniors are typically more resistant to receiving treatment for their addictions than younger people are.

Nursing Homes Often Fail to Properly Treat Residents with Addictions

Nursing homes should provide appropriate treatment to residents who have a history of addictions or other substance abuse problems. Unfortunately, that often does not happen, despite laws requiring such treatment. Nursing home staff are often not adequately trained in how to deal with the problem and fail to identify and help residents with substance problems. For residents with these problems, getting the help they need can be a matter of life or death.

If you have a loved one who is a nursing home resident, and you believe they are not receiving the help they need to deal with substance abuse or any other issue, you can call Garcia & Artigliere at 1-800-281-8515 to talk to an experienced and dedicated nursing home abuse attorney who will be glad to answer your questions.


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