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New Mexico Nursing Home Medication Abuse Lawyers

Get Legal Help for Nursing Home Medication Abuse in New Mexico

Nursing homes frequently give antipsychotic medications to residents with dementia to control their behavior, despite rules against chemical restraints. This practice is widespread, even though it is well known that giving antipsychotic drugs to older people with dementia can be dangerous. The FDA issued an alert on June 16, 2008, notifying healthcare officials of the increased risk of mortality associated with treating elderly patients with dementia with antipsychotics.

The FDA has stated specifically that antipsychotics are not indicated for treating dementia-related psychosis, and that these drugs increase the risk of death in elderly people with this condition. If your elderly loved one is being over-medicated in a New Mexico nursing home, contact Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP at (903) 212-2822 today. We can act swiftly to help protect your loved one from nursing home medication abuse.

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What Is Behind Medication Abuse in Nursing Homes?

Elderly people with dementia can be challenging to manage. Nursing home residents with this condition are often sedated to make the job easier for overworked nursing home staff, particularly in understaffed facilities. Antipsychotic medications are administered to residents with dementia as chemical restraints, despite federal regulations, for the convenience of the staff, and in some cases, to discipline residents. These drugs are used to control behavioral problems associated with dementia, such as agitation, aggression, irritability, and wandering. With residents deeply sedated or “knocked out” by antipsychotic drugs, nursing homes can significantly reduce staffing levels, and existing staff have less difficulty managing the residents.

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Federal Regulations against Medication Abuse and Chemical Restraints

Federal law strictly prohibits the use of chemical restraints for discipline, staff convenience, or any other non-medical reason. These drugs may only be administered in cases where the resident’s behavior jeopardizes his or her own safety, or the safety of staff or other residents. Under 42 CFR Section 460.114, chemical restraint is defined as “a medication used to control behavior or restrict the participant’s freedom of movement and is not a standard treatment for the participant’s medical or psychiatric condition.” If these drugs are used at all, the law requires that chemical restraints are only imposed for a defined, limited period, only when less restrictive measures have been found to be ineffective, and they must be stopped as early as possible.

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What Are the Health Risks Associated with Nursing Home Medication Abuse?

There are very good reasons for the black-box warning label assigned by the FDA to antipsychotic drugs in 2008. These medications have serious potential side effects, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Pneumonia
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Visual disturbances
  • Cognitive decompensation
  • Fall risk
  • Dyskinesia (involuntary muscle movements)
  • Death

A study on the risk of death in elderly patients with dementia who are given antipsychotics was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2015. Researchers concluded that the risk of death in these circumstances may be higher than originally reported and that the risk increases with dosage.

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How Big Is the Problem of Medication Abuse in Nursing Homes?

As reported in a Fox News article, nursing homes, responding to pressure from various directions, have reduced the use of powerful antipsychotic drugs for elderly residents. However, medication abuse in nursing homes remains a problem. According to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the percentage of long-term nursing home residents being given antipsychotic drugs dropped from approximately 24 percent in 2011 to under 16 percent in 2017. However, even the lower rate of antipsychotic medication usage is excessive and alarming, given FDA warnings regarding the effects of these drugs on older adults with dementia.

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What Are the Signs of Medication Abuse in Nursing Homes?

In some cases, antipsychotics may be administered to elderly nursing home residents with dementia without their knowledge or consent, and without the knowledge or consent of their family members. Warning signs that overmedication has occurred or is ongoing include:

  • Changes in behavior, particularly confusion or lethargy
  • Uncharacteristic reclusiveness
  • Sleeping for long periods of time
  • Unexplained medical conditions

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Who Is Liable?

A nursing home can be held legally responsible when negligence or abuse on the premises causes harm to a resident. You may be entitled to file a lawsuit against the facility if your elderly loved one has been the victim of medication abuse. A nursing home that accepts Medicare or Medicaid must follow federal regulations, which expressly prohibit chemical restraint, except under certain limited circumstances. A nursing home that violates these regulations is liable to be sued for damages.

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Why You Need an Attorney for a Nursing Home Medication Abuse Case

When a resident is injured in a nursing home, it is not always clear how the injury occurred and who is responsible. Evidence may be incomplete or self-serving for the nursing home. Our experienced personal injury lawyer has the knowledge, skills, and resources to thoroughly investigate medication abuse, obtain and preserve evidence, identify responsible parties, build a strong case based on the facts, and hold responsible parties accountable under the law.

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Connect with Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP

Medication abuse in nursing homes is a serious matter. When elderly residents with dementia are overmedicated with antipsychotic drugs, it not only robs them of their quality of life but also increases their risk of death, per FDA warnings. If you suspect your loved one is a victim of medication abuse in a New Mexico nursing home, it is essential that you take action right away. Call us today for a free consultation. We will answer your questions, even if we don’t take your case.

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