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Report Finds Assisted Living Homes Overmedicate Residents, Putting Them at Risk

Atlanta nursing home abuse and neglect attorneyMost people living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities have Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia, and the facilities are dosing them with unnecessary medication, placing their lives at risk. That’s according to a report by Human Rights Watch titled “They Want Docile:" How Nursing Homes in the United States Overmedicate People with Dementia.

These powerful antipsychotic drugs are given to residents as a “chemical restraint.” Staff at nursing homes use them for convenience or even as a form of discipline, the report states. Residents and their families are not giving informed consent. They don’t hear anything about the risks older people face when taking antipsychotic drugs. An experienced attorney knows that such irresponsible use of medication is a type of abuse and neglect of those residents in assisted living facilities.

According to a CNN news article about the report, children say their parents who were under nursing home care resembled zombies. The residents who were drugged could not speak clearly, could not think and had a hard time staying awake.

Nursing homes are administering these drugs to people who should not be receiving them, according to the report. In U.S. nursing home facilities, each week more than 179,000 people receive antipsychotic medication. Most of them have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or some type of dementia. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned that antipsychotic drugs should not be used to treat symptoms of dementia. In fact, studies have shown that the use of such potent drugs almost doubles the risk of death for people with dementia, according to the HRW report.

The report calls on the government to take aggressive action to protect nursing home residents from the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medications. Regulatory agencies such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have failed in their duty to protect at-risk older people, the report finds.

“On paper, nursing home residents have strong protections of their rights, but in practice enforcement is often lacking,” says the HRW report.

HRW's research was based on 109 nursing home visits in six states. Researchers interviewed 323 residents, families, staff and officials, among others, between October 2016 and March 2017.

Report finds care is lacking for mentally ill people in assisted living facilities

Antipsychotic drugs are designed to treat people with mental illness, not dementia. But a recent report finds that assisted living staff are not properly trained to care for residents with mental illness. According to the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, an unknown number of mentally ill older people obtain care in assisted living facilities. They share the facility with people who have been diagnosed with dementia. The report concludes that assisted living staff and residents are not prepared to live with those who are mentally ill. “These residents bring diverse needs. Daily inter-resident interactions are also disrupted or stressful.”

Staff lack awareness and training to address the medical and social needs of people with severe mental illness, according to the report. Researchers found that staff members could not distinguish differences between residents with mental illness and those who had dementia.

“Limited awareness of [severe mental illness] often extended to managers, raising the question of whether care for SMI can be effectively managed in [assisted living facilities],” the report states.

Anyone struggling with dementia or mental illness deserves quality care in a nursing home or assisted living facility. There’s no excuse for untrained staff or administrators who cut corners and put residents at risk.

If your loved one was harmed through overmedication in a nursing home or assisted living facility, don’t hesitate to speak with an experienced Georgia attorney. Contact the Law Office of George S. Johnson, LLC for a free consultation.

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