Human Rights Watch published a study finding that approximately 179,000 nursing home residents are medicated with antipsychotic drugs, even though they do not have schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses.
Many nursing home residents have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, for which antipsychotics are not approved. Further, several antipsychotic drugs come with a “black box warning” from the FDA, which warns they can increase the risk of death in older people with dementia. Additionally, the study found that antipsychotic drugs were often given without informed consent and for the purpose of making dementia patients easier to handle, particularly in facilities with staffing deficits.
The study claims that the federal government has failed to enforce existing laws that protect nursing home residents from what are sometimes referred to as “chemical restraints.” The study further calls for the government to address informed consent procedures and establish minimum staffing levels.
The American Health Care Association, which represents most nursing homes, issued a statement that the Human Rights Watch study “does little to highlight the effort launched by our profession in 2012 that has resulted in a dramatic decline in the use of these medications.”
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