If your loved one is in a nursing home, or you’re currently selecting a nursing home, you might be surprised to learn that overmedication is a common cause of nursing home injury and death.
While nursing staff can make honest mistakes due to patients receiving many different medications, it has also been reported that nursing home residents may be purposefully overmedicated, especially with antipsychotic drugs, to render patients more docile and thus easier to care for. However, this action violates federal law, constitutes abuse, and may even lead to a tragic death.
Speak Up on Behalf of Your Loved One
How can you know if your loved one is the victim of overmedication? Signs and symptoms abound. The first question to ask is “Does my loved one need each of these medications?” A healthcare professional should explain the need for each drug so that you can make an informed decision. According to one report from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicaid Services, 17 percent of nursing home residents received doses of antipsychotic medications that exceeded the daily recommendation. So especially in cases of antipsychotic drugs such as Haldol, Seroquel and Abilify, be sure to ask why your loved one needs the drug and speak up if you believe this drug is not needed or improperly prescribed.
Signs and Symptoms of Overmedication
Since an elderly nursing home resident probably cannot keep track of which drugs were given and at which doses, look for these common signs and symptoms of overmedication:
- Constant fatigue
- Confusion or erratic personality changes
- Agitation; wandering off
- Reclusive behavior, even around family members
- Unexplained or more frequent falls, broken bones, and bruises
The nursing home is bound by law to protect and care for your loved one 24/7. If you are concerned, ask the staff for copies of the medication order sheet so you can review which drugs are being given. If you can, be present during those times when staff dispenses medications to ensure the right dose is given. Certainly, staff may cleverly attempt to provide the correct dosage when you are there, overdosing the patient when you are not. So, you might try to visit with your loved ones at different times of day or different days of the week. If your concerns continue, speak to the nursing home’s management, whose obligation it is to investigate any suspicious activity. In complex cases, you may need the help of an experienced nursing home neglect and abuse attorney to investigate and uncover the truth.
Suing the Nursing Home for Neglect
It is possible to sue the nursing for various types of neglect. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s injuries, the nursing home may be sued for:
- Battery. Giving inappropriate medication could cause charges to be brought for battery, an intentional tort (Battery is legally defined as “the use of force against another, resulting in harmful…contact”)
- Negligent supervision. If the nursing home fails to properly supervise its staff and this leads to your loved one being overmedicated, the facility may be held liable for careless neglect
- Negligent hiring. Nursing homes should perform background checks on every new hire to learn of any criminal activity or lawsuits. If the necessary checks were not performed and your loved one was harmed, you may be able to sue for negligent hiring
A wise first step is to contact a nursing home attorney such as Laurie Robbins here in Georgia. She will investigate, request the proper documents from the nursing home, interview staff and management and other activities for which the attorney is trained. Your attorney is your best resource for understanding your case and its potential consequences as well as your legal rights. If you win your lawsuit, you may receive compensation to cover these and other costs:
- Medical expenses for injury treatment
- Rehabilitation costs
- Detoxification costs
- Pain and suffering
As a member of your loved one’s family, you are likely feeling vulnerable and upset. You might also feel you have no power against the nursing home. But do not let yourself be bullied! You deserve compassion, and your loved one deserves to be safe from harm, including harmful medication overdoses.
If the issue persists even after you’ve done all you can to speak with nursing home staff and management, call attorney Laurie Robbins.