Elder Abuse in Nursing Facilities: The Over-Administration of Antipsychotic Drugs to Nursing Home Residents

June 15, 2016 at 4:25 pm Leave a comment

Today, June 16, 2016 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (#WEAAD2016 ). Each year, an estimated 5 million older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited. Often overlooked are less obvious, but no less dangerous forms of abuse.  The overuse of antipsychotic drugs in skilled nursing facilities is one such form.

The Administration on Aging defines a subcategory of elder abuse – “physical abuse” – as “inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior, e.g. slapping, bruising, or restraining by physical or chemical means.”  Administering antipsychotic drugs to more than a quarter of a million nursing home residents clearly meets this definition of elder abuse and, left unanswered, is a national scandal.

Despite the clear, consistent, and ever-growing body of evidence that antipsychotic drugs should not be prescribed for older people, hundreds of thousands of nursing home residents are given these drugs on a regular basis.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that, in the first quarter of 2016, information self-reported by nursing facilities indicates that 20.77% of 1,300,222 nursing home residents – 270,056 individuals – took antipsychotic drugs.  The overwhelming majority of these residents have not been diagnosed with a psychosis that could possibly support the administration of antipsychotic drugs.  Instead, these residents have dementia or are otherwise unable to explain with words what is causing them stress or discomfort.

Why are residents chemically restrained and abused?  There are two critical reasons: inadequate staffing levels at nursing facilities and inadequate enforcement of federal standards of care.

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Entry filed under: Nursing Home Rights. Tags: .

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June 2016


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