Overmedication: A Type of Nursing Home Abuse that Is Harder to Spot
As people age, it is not uncommon for medication to become a necessary part of daily life as the body requires help to alleviate or correct problems. Residents of nursing homes are especially likely to need a number of different medications to control serious and debilitating issues. While these substances are integral to relieving suffering and life-threatening conditions, overuse can lead to instances of nursing home abuse. The over-administration of medication by nursing home staff is a tactic used to control residents deemed “difficult.” Anyone who has taken a prescribed medication will know that pharmaceuticals come with the risk of side effects, not to mention the ramifications of different medications interacting. Giving someone more than the prescribed dose or mixing medications that conflict with each other can leave a person in a very dissociative state where he/she is largely unaware of the surroundings and/or with a limited ability to communicate. While the short-term effects of this situation are bad enough, the long-term consequences of the over-administration of medication could be serious and permanent. Thus, it is important to recognize the signs of this type of mistreatment, and to also know the legal rights a resident has to sue to the nursing home for negligence.
Signs of Overmedication
A report issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2014 found that over 21 percent of nursing home residents in Florida were receiving doses of antipsychotic medication on a daily basis. Antipsychotics are often given to residents with dementia to control their behavior, but they bring the risk of death if not properly administered. Given how dangerous these drugs can be, loved ones need to be aware of signs of overmedication. Indicators someone is being overmedicated include:
- unpredictable or inexplicable changes in behavior;
- withdrawing from others, including family members;
- excessive fatigue;
- sudden episodes of confusion; or
- unusual physical symptoms.
Monitoring for this abuse requires family members to visit and contact the resident on a regular basis. Regular interaction will not only give family members the opportunity to identify maltreatment early, but also compel nursing home staff to treat the resident appropriately since they know someone is frequently checking on his/her welfare. However, if overmedication is suspected, family members should request a copy of the medication log, which lists the medications administered, the dosage and the frequency.
Suing for Negligence
Nursing homes are obligated to regulate and monitor the actions of their staff for actions that may violate the law. Florida law specifically creates a right to sue and hold a nursing home liable for incidents that result in personal injury or death. In addition, a resident’s bill of rights gives all residents the right to be free of physical and mental abuse. These provisions grant nursing home residents alleging abuse a better starting point at trial than the traditional personal injury for negligence, because their rights and duties of the nursing home are explicitly set out. To prevail, a successful litigant must show that:
- the nursing home owed a duty to the resident;
- the nursing home breached this duty;
- the breach led to the injury or harm; and
- the resident suffered injury due to the breach.
Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one suffered an injury at the hands of the staff at a nursing home, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your case, and the possibility of taking legal action. No one should have to suffer or live in fear of abuse or neglect, and the Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado is ready to fight to hold the responsible parties accountable. Contact us for a free consultation.