As we age, there is an increased chance that we will need to take prescription medications for health issues we face. While most diseases can occur at any age, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and hypertension are common ailments among the elderly. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) tells us that people aged 75 and over take on average, 11 different drugs over the course of a year. Even though senior citizens comprise just 13 percent of the population of the US, they account for nearly 35 percent of all filled prescriptions.

Considering these facts, most of us assume that nursing homes make the proper management of patient medication a top priority. In the best nursing homes in California, administrative staff make sure that their personnel is following all the guidelines and proper procedures pertaining to administering medication to their residents. Unfortunately however, many mismanaged nursing homes are not so diligent as over-medicating residents often takes place. Over-medication is a form of nursing home abuse that happens far too often in California and the rest of the U.S.

Over-Medication can be Accidental or Intentional

Over-medication takes place when a nursing home patient is given an excessive amount of a medication. Over-medication can be intentional or accidental. If a patient is given too much medication by accident, it can be indicative of neglect. Quite often, when patients are given too much medication by accident, it is a sign that staff are under-trained or over-worked wherein they find it difficult to distribute the correct dosages of the correct types of medication.

When a patient is intentionally over-medicated, that constitutes nursing home abuse. Quite often, intentional over-medication is done with the purpose of making a patient easier to deal with and control. This is often called chemical restraint. Sadly, over-medication is a common problem in nursing homes in our state. Physicians prescribe drugs based on factors such as body weight, physical condition and tolerance to the drug. However, when there is a lack of a proper doctor to patient relationship, over-medication can easily occur. This is especially the case when several different medications are taken by a patient that adversely interact with one another or which cause serious side effects.

Warning Signs

When a patient is being over-medicated for an on-going period of time, there are some behavioral changes to be aware of including:

  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Sleeping for long periods of time
  • Unexplained medical conditions
  • Reclusive behavior
  • Lack of Coordination
  • Changes in Eating Habits
  • Weight Loss
  • Mood changes
  • Depression

Consequences of Over-Medication

When a patient is given too much medication over an extended period of time, he or she could suffer from serious injuries such as broken bones, brain injuries and even death because an overly-medicated person is very prone to falling. One way you can prevent your loved one from being over-medicated is to periodically review all the medications they take. You can do this by noting the name of their medications and then speaking to a doctor or pharmacist to find out if the dosages are correct or if the interactions between the medications pose a risk.

What You Can Do

If you suspect that your loved one is being overly medicated while living in a nursing home, speak to the director of nursing and the administrator and demand that the issue be investigated. You should keep a documentation log that makes note of the behavioral changes you notice. Ask for a report/copy of the medications your loved one takes during the course of a day and week and verify if new medications were started and if an “as needed” medication has been given. If so, ask what was the documented reason the medication was given for each time it was administered.

You should also verify the amount of fluids your loved one is consuming as well as the food he or she eats. Also verify any changes noted by staff that pertain to mobility, distance walked, falls and any physical interactions with other patients.

If you are not given answers to the questions you have or if the nursing home staff is non-cooperative, speak to a nursing home abuse attorney right away. Remember that your loved one is counting on you to do what’s right. Your attorney will review your case and then advise you of what actions you should take to ensure that the health, safety and life of your loved one is not in jeopardy. At Hogan Injury, we are dedicated to fighting California nursing home abuse and are focused on helping you and your loved one get the justice and compensation you deserve.

It’s important that the nursing home is held accountable for the abuse your loved one suffered from. You placed your faith in the nursing home and assumed (as you should have) that your loved one would be well-cared for and protected from harm while living at the facility. Over-medication is a problem that happens far too often in California nursing homes. Our San Francisco personal injury lawyers are passionate about stopping this type of abuse. We will use all our experience, expertise and valuable resources to help you and your loved one obtain the justice and peace of mind you deserve.

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