One form of nursing home negligence in Boynton Beach that you may not be aware of involves medication.
Our nursing home lawyers know that a lot of organizations don’t adequately staff their facilities. Or even when they do, those staffers may not be properly trained.
Either of these situations can lead to medication errors – over-medication, under-medication, wrong medications or skipped medications.
Any one of these can lead to potentially life-threatening consequences for the patient.
Another issue, however, is the intentional over-medication of some patients. That’s the problem being addressed now by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The agency recently announced a partnership with federal and state agencies, nursing homes and advocacy groups to reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs for dementia patients. Their goal is a 15 percent reduction in a single year.
Antipsychotic drugs – and we’re talking here substances like clozapine, ziprasidone, aripiprazole, quetiapine and olanzapine – are approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration for use by patients who have specific mental health disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
What they are NOT approved for is dementia patients. In fact, a lot of these prescriptions have large warnings on the label that indicate they are dangerous when used by the elderly.
In fact, a study published in the British Medical Journal earlier this year indicated that of more than 75,000 nursing home patients in 45 state between 2001 and 2005, those given antipsychotics were twice as likely to die much sooner.
Plus, there really is no benefit for the patient. Their condition is never going to improve, and medication does not help them regain any mental function.
So what’s the point?
The fact of the matter is, nursing homes in Boynton Beach and across the country seek to tranquilize these dementia patients. Sedating them, the theory is, makes them less work. Controlling the behavior is the top concern – never mind that the drugs they use to do so accomplish absolutely no good and in fact could kill them.
A report published in 2011 by the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (also known as OIG) found that nearly 15 percent of all nursing home residents with access to Medicare had claims for antipsychotic medications. Of those, nearly 90 percent were for off-label uses – such as dementia.
What’s more, not only are the physicians who work with these facilities prescribing these medications to patients that shouldn’t have them, they are over-prescribing them. In 2010, the OIG said, nearly 20 percent of nursing home patients were given daily doses of antipsychotic medication that went well above the levels recommended by the manufacturers.
In fact, almost 40 percent of patients who had been diagnosed with dementia or who had exhibited signs of dementia were being prescribed antipsychotic medications.
Part of what the partnership will aim to do is to make antipsychotic medication data available to the public on the government website Nursing Home Compare by next month.
If you or a loved one have suffered from nursing home abuse in Boynton Beach, West Palm Beach or the surrounding areas, contact the Law Offices of Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez for legal assistance. 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
CMS Seeks to Cut Antipsychotics in Nursing Homes, By Emily P. Walker, MedPage Today