In 2005, the FDA gave a serious warning to health officials suggesting that there had been a significant increase in the number of patients with dementia who had died suddenly. The increase in sudden deaths was linked to the misuse of antipsychotics. Although nursing homes and had been administering the antipsychotic drugs such as Seroquel, Risperdal and Zyprexa to their patients, the drugs were never approved for elderly patients suffering from dementia.
After the FDA warned health officials about the dangers of misusing the drug, a recent study suggests that many nursing homes continued to neglect the warnings, administering the drugs to patients who should not have received the medications.
A woman whose father died at a nursing home in September 2005 later discovered that the staff had given the dementia patient antipsychotics. Just days after admitting her father to the nursing home, the woman noticed that her father had physically changed. She told CBS News that her father was sweating and his mouth was cracked. After living in the nursing home for four weeks, the man was dead.
“I wish I would have said, ‘what are you giving him? How much are you giving him?” said the man’s daughter. After learning that staff had been giving her father antipsychotics to treat his dementia, the woman filed a lawsuit. The nursing home did settle the lawsuit with the woman and the man’s daughter is using the money to set up a nursing scholarship.
A recent study conducted by the government discovered that nursing homes are still administering the harmful drugs to patients. Out of the amount that Medicare reimbursed nursing homes for the use of antipsychotics, 88 percent of those payments accounted for antipsychotics that were administered toward elderly patients with dementia.
The study has the Department of Health and Human Services concerned that nursing homes are administering the drugs in order to receive financial incentives. One doctor representing nursing home medical directors commented that the drug is usually wrongly administered due to the staff’s lack of training. He said that there can be a quick turnaround in staff and nursing homes may not have the proper procedures in place to quickly train new staff on how to work with patients suffering from dementia.
When a family finally makes the tough decision to put a loved one in a nursing home, the family trusts that staff will properly take care of their patients. Nursing home facilities are responsible for training their staff and monitoring their staff to make sure that the patients are adequately taken care of based on each patient’s unique needs. A quick turnaround in staff should never be an excuse for a nursing home to put off training needs.
CBS News: “Gov’t finds nursing homes misuse antipsychotics,” Armen Keteyian, 9 May 2011