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Are Nursing Homes Misusing Medications?

Nursing homes are charged with caring for elderly patients, which often means that they are required to administer medication to the patients. In fact, according to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, nearly 90% of all Medicare beneficiaries use prescription drugs, and AARP reports that Americans who are 75 and older take, on average, more than 11 different drugs over the course of a year.

Given that most nursing home patients are taking prescription drugs - and, in many cases, patients are taking several prescription drugs - it is imperative that nursing homes properly administer the medications to their patients. Unfortunately, some nursing homes do not properly administer patient medications, which can result in additional illnesses and injuries.

At Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish, our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers are dedicated to protecting the rights of nursing home patients and ensuring that they and their families get the compensation they deserve in the event that they are the victim of nursing home abuse. If you suspect that a nursing home is negligently administering medications, contact our office at (312) 782-1386 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers.

Types of Negligent Medication Administration in Nursing Homes

Medication abuse and negligence in nursing homes often involves giving patients the medication errors (i.e., giving the wrong medication) or overdosing patients. Medication errors often occur in understaffed nursing homes, where overworked nurses are unable to give patients the attention that they deserve and medication mistakes occur as a result. The consequences of giving a patient the wrong medication can be disastrous, however. Patients can suffer adverse reactions, allergic reactions, or an exacerbation of the medical condition that the prescription was supposed to be treating.

Whereas medication errors are often unintentional forms of nursing home abuse, overdosing typically involves the intentional administration of a higher dose of medication than necessary, often in order to subdue a patient. According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, a 2010 study conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) showed that more than 17% of nursing home residents throughout the country are given more than the required amount of antipsychotic drugs on a daily basis. In some states, the problem is particularly troublesome. For instance, in California alone, the study showed at least 25% of all statewide nursing home residents receive more than the required amount of a medication and in Florida the study revealed that an alarming 71% of the state's nursing home residents were being overdosed with antipsychotic medications.

Because the use of physical restraints, such as belts and straps, is illegal, some experts believe that nursing homes are using antipsychotic drugs to control and pacify patients. Although it is illegal to chemically restrain a patient, the practice appears to be widespread - oftentimes resulting in serious injuries and even death. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, at least 15,000 nursing home patients die each year because of unnecessary antipsychotics.

How to Prevent or Stop Medication Negligence in Nursing Homes

If you have a loved one who is in a nursing home, it is important to keep close tabs on the medications that he or she is being given. Ask the nursing home questions about how its staff administers medications and how the nursing home maintains medication records. You should be on the lookout for some common side effects of medication errors or overdosing in your loved ones, such as:

  • Unusual fatigue

  • Disorientation

  • Unusual withdrawal

  • Unexplained medical complications

  • Oversleeping

  • Confusion and forgetfulness

If you notice any signs of medication errors or overdosing, you should immediately contact the Senior HelpLine (800) 252-8966.  To file a complaint against a nursing home facility, call the Illinois Department of Public Health at (800) 252-4343. The trusted Chicago elder abuse attorneys at Steinberg, Goodman, & Kalish are committed to helping victims of nursing home and elder abuse. Contact us at (888) 325-7299 if you suspect elder or nursing home abuse, including medical malpractice.

Steinberg Goodman & Kalish  (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families.  We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (800) 784-0150 or (312) 782-1386.