CMS: Many Nursing Homes Overmedicating Dementia Patients

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Many seniors wind up in nursing homes because they have Alzheimer’s or dementia and can no longer care for themselves. Unfortunately, too many of these vulnerable patients end up being mistreated by their caregivers.

Some nursing homes either mistakenly or intentionally over-administer antipsychotic drugs to patients with dementia. Often, this happens because the patients cannot communicate their needs and because their outbursts are stressful for the people caring for them. Antipsychotic drugs can help a patient to calm down. However, taking too many can cause serious harm and even death.

According to 2010 statistics from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), more than 17 percent of nursing home patients in the United States were being given doses of antipsychotic drugs that exceeded the recommended daily limit. One patient advocate has gone so far as to call this trend a “national disgrace.”

Now, CMS has launched a national initiative to address the problem of medication errorsin nursing homes. The campaign involves a three-pronged approach that includes training, information and treatment alternatives. Specifically, CMS plans to:

  • Train caregivers on how to best care for patients with dementia
  • Make more information about antipsychotic drug use available to nursing home consumers
  • Provide a list of alternative treatments to help increase quality of life for patients with dementia, including increased activity, outdoor recreation, exercise and pain management

Every nursing home patient deserves to be treated with dignity. If you have a loved one with dementia, make sure you talk to his or her caregivers about antipsychotic drug use. By staying involved in the care plan, you can help make sure your loved one enjoys a high quality of life.

If you do discover that your loved one is being mistreated, know that you have rights. A Memphis nursing home abuse lawyer can help you understand your options.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, “U.S. Program Targets Antipsychotic Drug Use in Nursing Homes,” Steven Reinberg, May 30, 2012.