An investigation from The Star revealed that many nursing homes, especially those struggling with staff shortages, would use these antipsychotic drugs to calm down and ‘restrain’ patients that are aggressive, agitated, or wandering. In fact, the investigation revealed that in 40 of the homes researched across the border, almost half of the residents were being given these medications.
About the drugs themselves
Perhaps even worse was the fact that these medications (such as quetiapine and olanzapine) are not approved for use on elderly patients who suffer from dementia. According to the warning on the medications themselves, elderly patients who have dementia and still take the medication face a 60 percent increase in risk of death when compared to similar patients not taking those drugs. Doctors, family members, and even a provincial coroner believe that these medications may have contributed to the deaths of seniors who have dementia.
How is this happening?
Part of the issue here is the fact that ‘off-label use’ is legal for doctors. This means that the medications are used for an age group or a condition for which it has not been approved. These medications are not proven to work for seniors, they are extremely powerful, but yet these medications are being used routinely. In fact, in some seniors, the side effects may be the very symptoms that the drugs are trying to minimize – confusion and violence.
Part of the problem is the fact the overworked and underpaid staff is no longer able to identify specific issues within the patients, they are only able to manage specific crises. This is what happens when elder care becomes a business instead of a calling.
Not for everyone
The truth is that elder care is not always easy. There are days that the job might not seem as rewarding as it did before. This is why it is on the supervisory board to hire people that are capable of dealing with these occasional frustrations. It is never acceptable to use these powerful antipsychotic drugs on people who do not need them – especially if the side effects are as dangerous as they are in this instance.
There is no denying that a number of residents who side in long-term elder care facilities suffer from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other conditions that may need antipsychotics. However, the majority of elderly patients suffer from dementia – not a form of mental illness.
If you feel that someone close to you is being given these medications without a true need, it is vital that you speak up. If you do find out, make sure to contact a skilled lawyer to seek out any legal compensation that you may be due, but also to ensure that this type of treatment of the elderly patient stops as quickly as possible.