Laurel C. says her mother, who has Alzheimer’s and lived in different nursing homes, was often left unattended for hours at a time in her wheelchair hopped up on antipsychotic drugs to sedate her. “Instead of seeing what’s wrong with her,” she said, “they just want to drug her up.”
Antipsychotic medications, like Risperdal indicated for conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, were given to about 24 percent of nursing home patients across the country in late 2011. Due to an aggressive campaign from human rights groups, that number dropped to below 15 percent last year. Decreases were reported in all 50 states with Tennessee, California and Arkansas reporting the biggest drops in antipsychotic use.
But advocacy groups say that overmedication of these vulnerable patients continues to be a major problem, and they want to turn up the heat on the nursing home industry to stop the practice. One reason is because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that elderly people with dementia are at greater risk of death when given the drugs.
“Given the dire consequences, (the number of residents given the drug) should be zero,” said Kelly Baby with the advocacy group AARP Foundation. She says the nursing home’s prescribing practices should be monitored because antipsychotics are often given for the sedative effect instead of treating a patient’s symptoms. Many times, they are given to patients without their consent or the consent of their relatives.
“Antipsychotic drugs alter consciousness and can adversely affect an individual’s ability to interact with others,” according to a report released by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch. “They can also make it easier for understaffed facilities, with direct care workers inadequately trained in dementia care, to manage the people who live there.”
The drop in antipsychotic use in nursing homes is a good thing, but one that can hardly be celebrated, said Hannah Flamm, the report’s lead author. “Would you want to go into a nursing home if there’s a one in six chance you’d be given a drug that robs you of your ability to communicate?”she asked. “It’s hard for me to applaud the reduction (of antipsychotic use) when it’s inexcusable to ever misuse these drugs.”
Source: ABC News