How you can help prevent overmedication of loved ones

Decades ago, it was all too common for nursing homes to give their patients sedatives and anti-psychotic drugs to calm them down or get them to go to sleep. In the days before very much was known about Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia, these patients were given medications that are now known to have serious and potentially fatal consequences to people with these conditions.

Fortunately, nursing homes are now more closely regulated under federal law by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as well as by state laws. That has helped cut down on unnecessary and potentially dangerous overmedication of patients. In fact, some nursing home personnel complain that there are too many hoops to jump through to get new medication for a patient -- particularly if it's needed immediately.

However, overmedication of patients still occurs. It can happen because a staffer genuinely thinks they're helping a patient by giving them something to calm them down or help them sleep. Unfortunately, sometimes a staffer will sedate a patient just so they're less trouble. There may be cases where potential interactions of new medications with those a patient is taking aren't considered.

If you're responsible for a loved one in a nursing home or other facility, you can tell those in charge that you need to be informed of and agree to any changes in their medication, treatments or therapies. However, that isn't a guarantee that your loved one won't be given an anti-psychotic or other medication without your knowledge.

If you notice changes in your loved one's emotional well-being, cognizance, alertness, mental state or physical health, it's essential to bring your concerns to the attention of those in charge. You can ask to see a list of their medications. Of course, if you're not a medical professional, that may not be of much help.

Even if the changes to your loved one aren't caused by overmedication, there may be other issues that aren't being addressed. However, it's important to understand that overmedication can and does continue in some facilities.

If a family member has been harmed by medications given to them in a nursing home, find out what your legal options are. An experienced attorney can help you to seek justice and work to prevent harm from occurring to others.

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