Healthcare News & Insights

Are nursing home patients being drugged into submission?

New research shows that nearly a fifth of seniors in nursing homes are receiving psychotropics they don’t need. In some states, that number is much higher.

The research was done by reporters for The Boston Globe, based on data compiled by the CMS.

According to the report, nationwide, nearly 19% of residents in nursing homes who were receiving drugs for anxiety, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses didn’t have the condition they were being treated for. In some states, the figure was closer to 25%.

More troubling than the waste of unneeded prescriptions: Patients who suffer from dementia face a higher risk of death from many of these drugs, as well as other significant side effects like increased confusion, weight gain, fatigue and sedation.

Open to debate: Are some cases of early dementia being misdiagnosed as mental illness? Are doctors just getting creative with the off-label use of these drugs? Or is it simply sometimes easier to give out prescriptions for each symptom — and never reevaluate the appropriateness of the care?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. Judy Buckley says:

    This is truly disgusting. It sounds like a lot of license is being taken and I wouldn’t be surprised if this were illegal. I do know that practices in nursing homes are sometimes done for the purpose of making the nurses’ and aides’ jobs easier. For example, in the experiences of several of my family members, they always had to wear diapers. My husband was recuperating from hip surgery and was not incontinent, but it was obviously more difficult to move him to the bathroom than to have him wear diapers. I thought it was an indignity. I can understand this if the person is really bedridden, but it seems to me it’s done on a pretty widespread basis.