Guest Contribution by Tom Moverman
The decision to place your loved one in a senior care facility is fraught with self-doubt. You worry that your parent won’t receive the proper attention or medical care. You may wonder if they will get along with the other residents and if they will be able to enrich their life with the social offerings available at the facility. What you probably don’t worry about is the potential for your family member to be over-medicated, prescribed medication beyond what is necessary for the treatment of his ailment.
Overmedication in South Carolina Nursing Homes
According to the Alzheimer’s Association of South Carolina,there are almost 90,000 state residents living with Alzheimer’s; many of these people live at home and are cared for by family. The remainder live in long-term care facilities that are scattered throughout the state. These facilities deal with residents who have a variety of physical and mental disorders,which requires the use of medication. Pain, heart and anti-psychotic medicines are the most prevalent prescribed medications in the state’s nursing homes. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of these prescriptions are medically necessary. Statistics indicate that 15.2% of long-term stay residents in South Carolina take antipsychotic medications, even though antipsychotics are not intended for use as a treatment option in Alzheimer’s patients.
Is your Loved one Overmedicated?
The reason for nursing homes to prescribe unnecessary medications is often one of understaffing. Administrators must deal with an ever-increasing shortage of caregivers and an increase in the admittance of residents with dementia or other special needs. Prescribing antipsychotic medications like Haldol or Aricept leads to a more docile and controllable resident. The federal government has recognized this overuse, leading to the passage of a bill making it illegal to give seniors medication strictly for the purpose of dealing with “unruly’ residents.
If your loved one lives in a residential facility in South Carolina, chances are they are living in a warm and supportive environment, but it doesn’t hurt to be persistent about asking questions. If you notice any of the following signs of overmedication, ask the caregiver or nursing home administrator to provide you with a list of the medications your loved one has been prescribed:
- S/he is sleeping more than normal or appears drowsy when you visit
- S/he zones out when you’re talking to him or acts strange in relation to their normal behavior
- S/he doesn’t seem interested in life anymore and prefers to stay in his room or in bed
- S/he starts to exhibit avoidance tactics when it’s time for his medication
The Solution is not Definitive
While some of the symptoms mentioned above can occur as the result of a single medication or even the progression of dementia, it is important for you to keep tabs on the medications your loved one is being prescribed. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires physicians to follow strict protocols when prescribing antipsychotic medications, including informed consent. However, many doctors avoid this snag by telling families that the medication is required for treatment of the condition.
Tom Moverman established the Lipsig Law Firm with Harry Lipsig and his partners in 1989. The personal injury law firm focuses on products liability, personal injury, construction accidents, car accidents and medical malpractice. For more information, visit LipsigBrooklyn.com.