Patients with dementia are not easy to care for. They have rapidly changing moods. They are easily agitated or upset. They may become paranoid. They may wander off.
When dementia becomes disruptive, the first course of action should be behavior therapy. Unfortunately, many Illinois nursing homes are understaffed and don’t have personnel who are trained to help patients with dementia handle their disability. These nursing homes often rely on antipsychotic medications in order to calm patients. These drugs, which are meant to treat psychosis in patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disease, are used off-label as sedative for patients with aggressive dementia patients. However, the drugs are known to significantly raise the risk of death in the elderly, particularly those with dementia.
In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned doctors that the use of antipsychotic medications to treat behavioral symptoms in elderly patients with dementia increases a patient’s risk of death. The FDA advised doctors to stop prescribing antipsychotic drugs for these purposes and issued a black box warning. A black box warning indicates that the use of a drug can cause serious injury or death.
A Warning That Was Ignored
Sadly, the practice continues.
A 2011 report from the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General found that 14 percent of elderly nursing home residents have a Medicare claim for antipsychotic drugs; 88 percent of those patients had been diagnosed with dementia—the very condition that the black box warned about. Eighty-three percent of these claims were for off-label use. The drugs were used to subdue patients, not to treat psychosis. Such practice is known as chemical restraint.
Chemical restraint is a common form of Illinois nursing home neglect or abuse. It is also dangerous. There have been numerous reports of elderly nursing home residents slipping into comas or dying from reactions to overmedication.
Nursing homes are liable for overmedication deaths. If your loved one is a victim of Illinois nursing home overmedication, your family deserves accountability. To learn more, contact the Gurnee wrongful death attorneys at Hupy and Abraham at 866-625-2299.