Nursing Home Injuries and the Risk of Overmedication

Abuse and Neglect

Nursing home injuries are some of the most upsetting cases that attorneys come up against. After all, you entrusted your loved one—after what was most likely an agonizing decision-making process—to a nursing home that you carefully chose to help keep them healthy, comfortable, and as socially active as possible. When your loved one, instead, suffers an injury caused by overmedication, it’s very difficult to come to terms with.

Overmedication: The Statistics

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) reports on several troubling trends related to the overmedication of nursing home residents:

  • Too many nursing homes fail to comply with federal regulations designed to help prevent the overmedication of residents.
  • Too often nursing homes violate federal standards for unnecessary drug use when providing their residents with antipsychotic drugs.
  • Powerful antipsychotic drugs have dangerous side effects, and nursing homes are too quick to prescribe them for uses that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved.
  • Eighty-eight percent (85%) of nursing home prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs are for patients with dementia. The FDA warns that this population faces an increased risk of death from these medications. (Some drug companies even shamelessly market these contraindicated prescriptions to this population.)

These observations point to a general tendency in some nursing homes to overmedicate their residents.

If your elderly loved one suffered a nursing home injury caused by overmedication, it can overwhelm everyone in your family. However, you are not alone—and help is available. At the Hughey Law Firm in Charleston, our dedicated legal team empathizes with what you’re going through, and we have the compassion, commitment, and experience to fight for your loved one’s rights and just compensation.

Why Some Nursing Homes Overmedicate

Nursing homes are in the business of caring for the elderly, who naturally have more extensive healthcare needs than do younger populations. Some understaffed nursing homes, however, resort to overmedicating those residents who require more extensive one-on-one care—residents who exhibit aggressive, overly emotional, or uncooperative behaviors. The overuse of antipsychotics, tranquilizers, and other medications is sometimes implemented as a kind of Band-Aid approach to help keep things running smoothly with too few staff members. Nursing homes, however, should never subject residents to the inhumane treatment of control—for convenience—by overmedication.

Federal Laws

The rights of nursing home residents are overseen by federal laws, which allow each resident specific protections:

  • Protection from discrimination;
  • Protection from abuse and neglect;
  • Protection from restraints;
  • The right to dignified and respectful treatment;
  • The right to medical care (including appropriate medications and dosages); and
  • The right to both privacy and personal visitors.

The federal protection against restraints and the federal right to appropriate medical care both address the issue of overmedication in nursing homes.

South Carolina’s Regulations

The law in South Carolina stipulates that only a physician can order the physical or chemical restraint of a nursing home resident. In other words, your elderly relative should receive no medication unless a physician deems it necessary to promote good health.

It’s considered a best nursing-home practice to work closely with nursing home residents’ families when preparing those residents’ healthcare plans, which include medical care and medications. As an integral part of your loved one’s life, you obviously have a good deal to contribute regarding how best to care for and keep your loved one safe and healthy—which should never include overmedication.

Freedom From Chemical Restraints

Much like physical restraints, chemical restraints are drugs that medically restrain a person, and they are sometimes used for either the convenience of the nursing home or to punish a resident—both of which the state and federal government ban. Federal law restricts nursing homes from ever using chemical restraints—unless they are medically necessary for a resident’s health. They’re never appropriate as a method for making the staff’s jobs more convenient or for punishing a resident. Furthermore, a resident may refuse chemical restraints such as overmedication unless that resident is at risk of self-harm or of harming someone else.

Signs of Overmedication

While many types of nursing home negligence lead to physical signs, overmedicating may not. The HHS reports that overmedication is a problem in our nursing homes, so it’s critical that you remain alert to it. The American Health Care Association shares several potential signs of overmedication:

  • Your loved one exhibits signs of unusual drowsiness
  • Your loved one exhibits signs of physical complications associated with overmedication—such as dry mouth or ulcers
  • Your loved one exhibits signs of unusual confusion or dizziness (including falling)
  • Your loved one experiences atypical hallucinations
  • Your loved one unexpectedly suffers a fracture or experiences seizures

Overmedication could cause any of these situations. If you’re worried about overmedication, speak with the director of the nursing home to voice your concerns and go over your options. A well-managed and well-run facility will take your comments seriously and will work with you to ensure that your relative gets the quality care and services that every nursing home resident is entitled to and deserves.

If Your Elderly Relative Has Suffered a Nursing Home Injury, Consult a Charleston Personal Injury Lawyer

If your loved one was overmedicated by a nursing home and injured as a result, you are no doubt overwhelmed. You made the difficult decision to place your elderly relative in a nursing home that could provide quality care, social interaction, and necessary medical treatments. If, instead, your relative was injured by overmedication, call the Hughey Law Firm in Charleston, South Carolina. We’re here to help. Our experienced legal team has the skill, compassion, and dedication to fight for your loved one’s just compensation. Please contact or call us at (843) 881-8644 today.