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Are West Virginia nursing homes overmedicating patients?

It's hard to believe anyone, who studied and trained to safeguard the health and well-being of patients, would overmedicate West Virginia nursing home residents on purpose. Unfortunately, the practice is not as uncommon as many Charleston residents think. One-third of U.S. nursing homes have been cited for patient abuse.

In 2010, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported almost 40 percent of nursing home residents were given antipsychotic drugs, including patients without psychotic disorders. The same report also said 17 percent were administered antipsychotic drugs daily, in doses above recommended limits. An estimated 15,000 nursing home deaths each year are caused by antipsychotic drugs that patients were not prescribed!

Why does this happen? Some medication errors are accidental, the result of a rushed nurse giving the wrong pill or the wrong dosage. Horrifically, some nursing homes use medications to control patients' behavior to alleviate pressures caused by understaffing -- a form of nursing home neglect, often fueled by an operator's desire to turn a higher profit.

Most nursing home residents take multiple medications, an average of about eight different drugs monthly. Federal prescription drug administration rules are in place, yet the regulations often are ignored. Overmedication incidents frequently aren't reported, forcing family members to monitor a loved one's drug intake.

A nursing home resident may not be aware he or she has been given the wrong drugs. Observing the patient's behavior may provide clues. Unusual tiredness or longer-than-normal sleeping patterns, reclusiveness, confusion and sudden personality changes are among signs of overmedication and other forms of elder abuse.

Family members can ask the nursing home staff to show them the list of drugs given to a loved one. Keep in mind, a nursing home that administers drugs illegally also is likely to be fabricating the contents of drug logs. Outside assistance from a doctor, an ombudsman or an attorney can be invaluable.

Source: Inside Elder Care, "How to Spot Overmedication in Nursing Homes" Ryan Malone, accessed Feb. 25, 2015

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