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Overmedication: It happens, and it's not legal

Imagine that you place a loved one with dementia into a nursing home. They're already confused, and they sometimes lash out as a result. All it takes is patience and some time to calm them, and you hope that the facility's staff is capable of providing that.

Unfortunately, many nursing homes and similar facilities turn to medicating agitated patients to control them. A report from early 2018 showed that a number of nursing homes were sedating their patients with antipsychotic drugs so that they would cause fewer problems for the facility overall.

A Human Rights Watch report stated that there were some residents who remembered slurring their words or being unable to stay conscious despite their best efforts. Some of the patients' family members reported seeing distinct changes in their parents' behaviors, with some becoming "zombie-like."

In that 157-page report, it was estimated that around 179,000 people in U.S. nursing homes were given antipsychotic medications without psychiatric diagnoses that would have warranted the use of those medications. Why? These drugs can be used as chemical restraints.

Overmedication is a serious threat to patient safety, especially if the medication is not being used for the specific conditions for which it's prescribed. Many of these medications increase the risk of death for patients with dementia, even though the medications may "silence" them for some time.

No person, no matter how old or difficult, should be given antipsychotics without a psychiatric diagnosis and medical approval from their primary care provider. If your loved one is overmedicated or receives medications they shouldn't, it's a violation of their rights.

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