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Unnecessary prescriptions of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes

Most people tend to trust the professional staff of nursing homes to take proper care of senior citizens; unfortunately, proper care is not always provided. Elderly patients are sometimes subjected to neglectful and abusive practices in nursing homes. When one thinks of neglect of abuse of the elderly, physical violence or neglect may be the first things that come to mind. While these are serious instances of elder abuse, it can take many other forms.

One of the major instances of nursing home abuse is the frequent prescription of antipsychotic drugs. These drugs are useful when prescribed correctly but can be harmful when prescribed unnecessarily.

Understanding the problem

Most antipsychotic medications are intended to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. However, nursing home residents are frequently prescribed these drugs for dementia. Studies have shown that dementia patients who take antipsychotic drugs may have a higher mortality rate. Antipsychotic drug use is sometimes associated with cases of pneumonia and heart problems. The drugs also cause sedation, which can result in increased aspiration and falls in older patients.

Other options

The last thing elderly people need to be worried about is added stress and risks that could come along with addictive antipsychotic drugs. Nursing homes can initiate several different measures to ensure patients are properly cared for. Rather than treating dementia and behavioral issues with these drugs, nursing homes can use alternative methods such as:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Anti-stress techniques
  • Aromatherapy
  • Personal counseling
  • Skill training for family members


Senior citizens, including veterans, are worthy of the best treatment options that will give them a better quality of life.

Warning signs

If a family member is in a nursing home, you should ensure they are being properly treated. Here are some red flags that there may be medical neglect or abuse:

  • Symptoms of dementia in the patient, including agitation, delusions and hallucinations
  • Increased sedation in the patient
  • Doctors not informing family of new prescriptions


Doctors are required by law to obtain informed consent from the patient. If the patient is unable to make this decision due to cognitive impairment, a legal guardian, involved family members, health care agent, or legal representative should be consulted on behalf of the patient. If you are kept in the dark about your loved one's medical prescriptions, this could be a sign of unnecessary prescription of antipsychotic drugs.

If you are concerned about a loved one being wrongfully prescribed medication, make sure his or her rights are protected. Seek legal representation to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your family member.

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