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        Can Nursing Homes Overmedicate Residents?

        150 150 Clifford Horwitz


        With one in three nursing homes across the country being cited for abuse, families have a lot to monitor when they choose to admit their loved one to a long-term care facility.  Abuse and neglect of nursing home residents can take many forms, some of which are difficult to identify. Overmedication is one such example.

        Overmedication is the use of drugs that are not clinically indicated and are given in an inappropriate or overly aggressive manner even when nonpharmacologic alternatives are more suitable.1 A recent study found that one-third of prescription-related deaths are of elderly persons.2

        In 2010, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that over 17 percent of all nursing home patients were receiving, on a daily basis, antipsychotic medications that exceeded the recommended levels.3 Even worse, studies have indicated that in 2010 nearly 40% of nursing home residents were given antipsychotic drugs even though they had not been diagnosed with psychosis.4

        The risks of overmedication can be severe: addiction, heart disease, liver failure, and misdiagnosis are all potential adverse effects of overmedication. For nursing home staff members to pose these life-threatening risks to their residents without their consent is an inexcusable practice.

        Signs of Overmedication

        To protect your loved one from overmedication, note any behavioral changes that seem erratic or drastic changes in personality. Other symptoms of overmedication may be fatigue, exhaustion, confusion, and oversleeping. Communicate with your doctor. Ask questions about the purpose of each medication. Understand what ailments each prescription is meant to address so that you and your loved one can anticipate the potential side effects. Ask to see the medical administration record of your loved one to ensure the nurses and CNAs are administering the medication as ordered by the physician.

        These are small steps you can take that can make a big difference in the life of your loved one. Sadly, preventing all instances of overmedication of nursing home residents is not entirely within your control. Many nursing home staff members choose what is easiest, rather than doing what is best for the resident. Convenience often supersedes the comfort and well-being of your loved one. Overmedication of the elderly in long-term care facilities is a serious offense that should not be taken lightly. If you or a loved one has been subject to overmedication, contact our offices to consult with our attorneys.

        If you suspect a loved one is being abused, neglected or overmedicated in a nursing home, contact our offices today for a free consultation at 800-594-7433. Visit ProtectMyParents.com for additional resources.

        1. American Journal of Therapeutics, Avoiding_Overmedication_of_Elderly_Patients, Ruiz, Jorge G.; Array, Samir; Lowenthal, David. November 1996,

        2. Overmedicating the Elderly – the new epidemic

        3. How to Spot Overmedication in Nursing Homes

        4. Id.

        Clifford Horwitz

        Clifford Horwitz

        As Principal Partner and lead trial lawyer of Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, Cliff has devoted his entire career to achieving justice for those who have been victimized by corporate negligence. He has won numerous record-setting jury verdicts and settlements, as well as what was the largest personal injury verdict in Illinois for an individual.

        All stories by: Clifford Horwitz