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Conference Focuses On Drugging Of The Elderly

The use (always over use) of neuroleptic drugs, the so called anti-psychotic drugs, in nursing homes is an issue that just doesn’t get enough airplay. Oxnard in Ventura County California just held a conference on the subject. The headline of an article coming out of this conference should strike home in a number of communities around the world, Use of chemical restraints in nursing homes called an epidemic.

Neuroleptic drugs are not an acceptable method of treatment for dementia.

The drugs can double the risk of death for seniors with dementia and cause side effects ranging from stroke to delirium, according to speakers at an Oxnard conference called “Toxic Medicine.” Often the drugs are given in nursing homes or other facilities for dementia without the informed consent of residents or surrogates and are used as a restraint rather than to treat psychiatric conditions.

Senior citizens in nursing homes have fewer conditions that are psychiatric, strictly speaking, than they do conditions that are neurological in nature. Relatives of people in nursing homes who don’t want beloved family members to die prematurely should take serious note.

Anthony Chicotel, an attorney with the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said there are appropriate uses of the medication, such as when a patient has illnesses like schizophrenia. But Medicare statistics from the second quarter of last year showed 24.2 percent of the residents in the state’s nursing homes were on antipsychotics. Medicare statistics from 2009 showed the use of the medication fluctuated greatly at different Ventura County nursing homes — from a low of 7 percent of the patients on the drugs seven days over one week to a high of about 30.6 percent.

The overall rate of “serious mental illness” labeling in this country is 4.5 % according to National Institute of Mental Health statistics. How, if the overall rate for “serious mental illness” is 4.5 %, do you get almost 25 %, nearly a quarter, of the patients in nursing homes on neuroleptic drugs? The NIMH statistics for the percentage of people with schizophrenia is an even smaller fraction at 1.1 %. So what are 24.2 % of California’s senior citizens in nursing homes doing on neuroleptic drugs, the drugs obstensively used in the treatment of people labeled schizophrenic!?

The United States is killing its elderly through the use of neuroleptic drugs.

Dave Merkley is administrator at the Glenwood Care Center, an Oxnard nursing home where data showed about 17 percent of the residents were on antipsychotic drugs at the end of 2009 — better than the state’s average. The facility already works to make sure that drugs are used only in appropriate situations, but Merkley said he planned to talk with the facility’s medical staff to make sure other options are being considered.

17 % is still a long ways from 1.1 % or even 4.5 %.

Other communities, not just in the state of California, but in other states throughout USA, need to be aware that this epidemic is taking place. At least in Oxnard a conference helped draw attention to the matter. This doesn’t mean that the elderly aren’t being subdued, and having their lives put at unnecessary risk, as a result of the use of these chemicals in lesser numbers outside of the state of California. It just means that, for a brief spell, a spotlight was turned on to the subject in Ventura County. For this, the residents of Oxnard deserve our praise.

2 Responses

  1. A very important subject that deserves much more attention.
    Thank you for the post.

    Duane Sherry

    • Thanks. This is a subject that is sure to come up again. Nursing homes give lip service to doing something about the problem, but unless pressure is brought to bear upon them, that’s often where it remains. I think this problem is likely to get a lot worse before it gets any better, but we can always bring attention to it when it occurs.

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