Pervasive Pharmaceutical Misuse In Nursing Homes

If you have an elderly parent or relative in a nursing home, worry. According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Overmedication in the Nursing Home, psychiatric drug misuse in nursing homes is way up there.

Within three months of admission, a team of University of South Florida researchers determined, 71 percent of Medicaid residents in Florida nursing homes were receiving a psychoactive medication — an antidepressant or anti-psychotic, say, or dementia drugs — even though most were not taking such drugs in the months before they moved in and didn’t have psychiatric diagnoses. Fifteen percent of residents were taking four or more such medications. But only 12 percent were getting nondrug treatments like behavioral therapy.

71 %, that’s approaching 3/4th. This is not good. Some of these drugs are known for their capacity to shorten life spans.

“It seems the use of psychoactive medication is trumping the use of nondrug treatments,” Dr. Molinari said.

And given the possible interactions with the many other drugs most residents take, an average 10 or more prescriptions, “it could well be that we’re causing problems like falls, confusion and delirium, and hospitalizations,” he cautioned.

Not to mention deaths.

“For years, I’ve had calls from family members saying, ‘Mom was completely lucid when she went into the nursing home, and a week later she no longer recognized us,’” said Janet Wells, public policy director of NCCNHR, formerly the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform. “Families should question why drugs are prescribed, do some research. A lot of drugs are being used as restraints.”

What looks like senile dementia, in some instances, could turn out to be psychiatric drug intoxification.

These ‘chemical restraints’ are the drugs you should be particularly concerned about. They are the drugs that are known for shortening the time your elderly parent or relative may have remaining.

Although the article talks about making systemic changes, doing something about the issue at present is left up to the families that have a family member or members in nursing home care.