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Dementia patients in nursing homes prescribed wrong medicine

Placing a loved one in a nursing home is a hard decision for many to make. Often times, it means removing their loved ones from their personal homes and placing them in a facility among strangers. The emotional toll of placing a loved one in a nursing facility can be just as high as the financial one. But when a loved one is suffering from an illness such as dementia, there are often few choices available and a nursing facility is usually at the top of the list. Although nursing facilities are equipped to properly care for patients with dementia and other mental illnesses, sometimes their care is too reliant on pharmaceuticals.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School questions the need and benefits of certain medications prescribed to terminally ill dementia patients. The 90-day study involved 5,406 nursing home residents with advanced dementia located in 460 facilities nationwide. Researchers looked to identify how much and what types of medications were given to the patients and the costs associated with the medicine regimen. They found that over half of the patients were prescribed at least one medication deemed "never appropriate" for advanced dementia patients. Because the focus is supposed to be on comfort, many call into question the use of unnecessary or minimally beneficial drugs. Furthermore, the continued drug use increases the dementia patient's chances of adverse effects and death.

The study found that even though many nursing home directors believe the medications are ineffective, they still continue their use. In some cases, the use of unnecessary drugs can be considered negligence, as repeated clinical complications have been associated with a high risk of death within six months.

Whether through physical force or having a patient to take unnecessary medications nursing home negligence is a serious issue that must be addressed immediately. Working with an experienced and skilled attorney may not only relieve some of the burden felt by the abused loved ones, but also help ensure that a fair outcome is reached.

Source: Pharmacy Times, "Medications Inappropriately Prescribed to Dementia," Rachel Lutz, Jan. 2, 2015

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