Of all the responsibilities we entrust to nursing home staff, medication errors should worry us the least. After all, compared with the daunting logistics of physical care taking, can it really be that difficult to administer a set number of pills at a predetermined time?Apparently – yes. Quite difficult. Study after study – including a recent report from the Boston Globe – proves that even in this “simple” arena, nursing homes continually come up short. As we’ve reported before on Nursing Home Law Center LLC, medication errors account for thousands of unnecessary hospitalizationseach year.Adding to that scary fact is the increasing use of anti-psychotic medications to “control” conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Powerful dugs like Risperdal and Seroquel are being prescribed to as many as 185,000 nursing home residents a year – nearly one in five nursing homes, according to the Globe. This despite the fact that doctors are prohibited by the FDA to use antipsychotics for “off label” conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
The problem’s become so out-of-control that three senators today called for stricter legislation concerning the administration of anti-psychotics in nursing homes.
“We need a new policy that helps to ensure that these drugs are being appropriately used to treat people with mental illnesses, not used to curb behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other dementias,” said Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis).
The new legislation would require nursing homes to seek permission from either patients or family members before administering anti-psychotics – something that’s done in a small percentage of cases.
“This [legislation] is intended to empower residents and their loved ones in the decisions about the drugs prescribed to them,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
I can only hope the legislation catches on, and that more families take an active stance in asking the right questions, monitoring their loved one’s medications, and knowing the risks involved in taking anti-psychotics. Without proper studies on the books documenting all the side effects of anti-psychotics, families must still rely on their simple powers of observation.
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