The Dangers of Antipsychotic Medication for People with Dementia

Nursing Home Blog

When nursing homes give patients inappropriate medications or excessive doses, the results can be tragic. Unfortunately, this happens all too often in nursing homes. Patients with dementia are frequently given antipsychotic drugs when there is no medical need to do so. This practice is very dangerous.

Human Rights Watch conducted an extensive study of the problem and researchers estimated that every week, more than 179,000 nursing home residents in the United States with dementia were inappropriately given antipsychotic drugs.

Why Nursing Homes Give Dementia Patients Antipsychotic Medications

Nursing homes are giving antipsychotic medications to dementia patients who are not psychotic. Staff members are using the drugs not to treat illness, but to keep residents sedated, quiet and easier to manage. This is not for the benefit of the patients, but solely for the convenience of the staff, especially in facilities that don’t have enough employees to provide care for the residents. If residents express distress, instead of taking the time to find out what is wrong, these employees will simply give the residents a drug to keep them quiet.

Decades ago, nursing homes often used physical restraints to control patients. They would tie patients to their beds or chairs. This horrific practice has now been banned. However, many nursing homes have simply replaced physical restraints with chemical restraints.

Inappropriate Medication and Overmedication Are Dangerous

Antipsychotic medications carry a black box warning that states that giving these drugs to people with dementia can nearly double their risk of death. Patients also risk losing their personalities and their ability to communicate. Relatives of nursing home patients who were inappropriately given antipsychotics described their loved ones as “not themselves” or “no longer there.”

Nursing home abuse attorneys at Garcia, Artigliere & Medby recently filed a lawsuit against a nursing home that overmedicated a 75-year-old resident with dementia. The resident lost his ability to walk; he is now confined to a wheelchair and just sits all day in front of the nursing station.

What Can You Do if a Loved One Is Being Overmedicated?

Giving antipsychotic medication to patients who have not been diagnosed as psychotic is against the law. Unfortunately, the law is often not enforced. Nursing homes may threaten to discharge patients if their relatives insist on stopping inappropriate medication.

Overmedication and inappropriate medication in nursing homes are both forms of abuse. If you know or suspect a loved one is being given a drug that is harmful, a nursing home abuse lawyer can help. Call Garcia & Artigliere at (800) 281-8515 to find out more.