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Facing a Geriatric War on Drugs: The Overdosing of America’s Elderly

DrugsThere comes a time when an elderly loved one can no longer safely reside in their home. Upon this realization, most families are faced with a hard decision. Making an informed decision to place a family member in a nursing home may be one of the hardest decisions of a lifetime.

Not only will family members raise concerns about whether or not their loved one will be safe but the elderly family member may also have hesitation about losing their independence and control of daily life, fear of perhaps facing a faster progression of health issues, or trepidation over the level of medical care provided. It may be also be realistic to say that, once a family member is placed into a nursing home, their level of medical care may be compromised, adding possible nursing home neglect or medical malpractice concerns to the already growing list.

Overmedication of Elderly is One of the Biggest Concerns

Although many concerns may be addressed, National Public Radio (NPR) reported the number one fear should be the overmedication of our nation’s elderly. It is estimated that almost 300,000 nursing home residents are currently taking antipsychotic drugs. These are prescribed to combat anxiety, aggression or to ease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia related conditions.

This is where the conflict arises. Antipsychotics are generally prescribed to treat serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and for elderly patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Some of these drugs have a black box warning that cite an increased risk for heart failure, infections and fatalities.

Federal law prohibits the use of antipsychotic drugs as a chemical restraint for the purpose of discipline or convenience of the staff, but mistakes in charting, untrained or poorly trained staff, and even malicious intent can and sometimes does lead to an overdose. In some cases, this can be fatal. In others, the long-term exposure to overmedication may further increase the risk for serious or life-threatening side effects.

Facilities across the country are trying to combat this practice by putting the patient first.

Resident Independence and Decision-Making Can Reduce the Risk

The philosophy stresses changing the way Alzheimer's and dementia patients are treated by replacing the convenience of chemical restraint by allowing the patient to exercise more control over their daily activity in conjunction with their illness traits. By giving the patient more control, the facility runs more smoothly. Further, the risk of overmedication and overdose is reduced if the resident is given more power in their daily care and medication choices.

Suspect Overmedication? Our Attorneys Can Help

If you suspect that your loved one is being chemically restrained as a resident of a nursing home, it is time to voice those concerns. The experienced San Jose malpractice attorneys of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. understand the sense of betrayal you may be harboring. Our legal team is committed to holding negligent physicians or medical and ancillary staff responsible for their actions. Contact our offices to schedule your no charge consultation today.

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My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.