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Are Nursing Homes Overmedicating Residents?

On Behalf of Gierth-Eddy Law Offices, PLLC Sept. 3, 2022

The number of nursing home residents across Washington and the rest of the nation who are receiving schizophrenia diagnoses is on the rise. So, too, is the number of them getting prescriptions for antipsychotic medications. In fact, these numbers are increasing so much that some are starting to ask whether all these diagnoses have merit – or if some nursing homes might be overmedicating residents to make them more docile.

Per Business Insider, understaffing is rampant at nursing homes across the nation. Research shows that understaffed facilities are increasingly prescribing residents sedative drugs that make them easier for stretched-thin staff to manage.

How Often Residents Are Getting Schizophrenia Diagnoses

Studies show that, since 2012, the number of nursing home residents diagnosed with schizophrenia increased by 70%. Also, more than a fifth of all nursing home residents across the United States have received prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs. Many received those prescriptions after doctors diagnosed them with schizophrenia. Yet, only somewhere between 0.25% and 0.64% of Americans actually have schizophrenia. Furthermore, symptoms of the condition tend to materialize when someone is in their 20s or 30s, rather than in their 60s and 70s.

Why Facilities Do Not Have to Report Antipsychotic Prescriptions

Under current reporting guidelines, U.S. nursing homes do not have to report when their residents take antipsychotic medications if they are taking them to treat schizophrenia. A 2018 report shows that there are also no Medicare records for about a third of nursing home residents diagnosed with schizophrenia that year.

Antipsychotic medications often make those who take them calmer. They may, too, make them more submissive and compliant, which in turn makes a nursing home staff member’s job easier.