One of the most common types of abuse that occurs in nursing homes is overmedication. This is when nursing home staff administers more drugs or a higher dosage of a drug than necessary to patients, typically to subdue them. If your loved one has been overmedicated in a nursing home and has been harmed as a result, Cowdrey Jenkins, LLP is here to help. Contact a seasoned California nursing home abuse lawyer from our legal team to learn more.
How Prevalent is Overmedication in Nursing Homes?
According to a report by Human Rights Watch, over 179,000 nursing home residents in the United States are given antipsychotic drugs every week, even though they do not have a diagnosis that requires them. These drugs are often used to sedate or control residents who have dementia or other behavioral symptoms, without their informed consent. The report also found that these drugs can increase the risk of death, infections, falls, and other adverse effects.
Another report by Healthline found that many nursing home residents are also overmedicated with other types of drugs, such as opioids, antidepressants, sedatives, and painkillers, which can cause addiction, confusion, drowsiness, and more. These symptoms can all affect your loved one’s quality of life and ability to communicate with others.
What are the Signs of Overmedication?
Overmedication can be hard to detect, especially if your loved one has a pre-existing condition or is taking multiple medications. However, some of the common signs of overmedication that you should watch out for include:
- Changes in behavior, such as lethargy, agitation, or withdrawal
- Physical symptoms, such as dry mouth, rashes, weight loss or gain, or seizures
- Cognitive impairment, such as memory loss, confusion, disorientation, or difficulty speaking
- Unexplained medical conditions, such as strokes, heart attacks, or organ failure
If you notice any of these signs in your loved one, you should report them to their primary care physician or the nursing home administration immediately. You should also request a copy of their medical records and medication list to see if there are any discrepancies or errors. If possible, you should also consult with a geriatrician who specializes in evaluating medications for elders. If you suspect that your loved one is in immediate danger, you should call 911 and ensure they receive emergency medical treatment at once.
What are My Legal Options?
If you believe that your loved one has been overmedicated by nursing home staff, you may have a legal claim for elder abuse or negligence. That said, to prove elder abuse or negligence, you will need to show the following:
- The nursing home owed a duty of care to your loved one
- The nursing home breached that duty by overmedicating your loved one
- The overmedication caused your loved one to suffer harm or injury
- The harm or injury resulted in damages that can be compensated
Importantly, you should understand that suing a nursing home for overmedication isn’t always straightforward. You will need to gather evidence from medical records, witnesses, and other sources. You will also need to deal with the nursing home’s insurance company and lawyers who will likely try to deny or minimize your claim. Don’t face this without a competent team of attorneys in your corner. Contact Cowdrey Jenkins, LLP today.