Hidden Abuse: Antipsychotics & Elders

Some abuse is blatantly obvious and comes with signs that no one can mistake, but sometimes abuse could be masquerading as “help” in the form of medications. Specifically antipsychotics prescribed to elders as a result of frustrated and incompetent nursing staff, and doctors who blindly write prescriptions.

The Problem

According to California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), about 25,000 nursing home residents are “given antipsychotic drugs that greatly increase their risk of death.” Nursing homes tend to use antipsychotics to control and sedate residents who are confused, a little more aggressive, or persistent with behaviors that can be seen as disruptive. This has led to hidden abuse in the form of chemically restraining nursing home residents with antipsychotics.

These drugs have been shown to be ineffective, have a long list of side effects including anxiety and agitation, and are harmful. A leading expert of drug safety at the FDA, Dr. David Graham, says that there are multiple clinical trials that prove the antipsychotics prescribed are completely useless and, he adds, it could be considered medical malpractice that they are even being used. 

While prescribing antipsychotics is not inherently abuse, the use of the drugs, especially for elders in nursing homes, is largely unnecessary, and in patients with dementia, a leading cause of nursing home deaths. HealthAffairs reported that FDA studies found antipsychotics nearly double “the risk of death in older people with dementia.”

What You Can Do

The CANHR is running a campaign called The Campaign to Stop Chemical Restraints in Nursing Homes. As part of this campaign they have a petition that you can sign to join their movement, a guide with more information called Toxic Medicine that you can download here, and a blog where you can learn more and share your experiences.

Report elder abuse. If you know your loved one has been prescribed an antipsychotic unnecessarily, report the abuse to the proper authorities and call Gharibian Law (866-958-4052) for the best legal representation.