Frail and vulnerable residents of nursing homes throughout Illinois are being dosed with powerful psychotropic drugs, leading to tremors, dangerous lethargy and a higher risk of harmful falls or even death, a Tribune investigation has found.
Thousands of elderly and disabled people have been affected, many of them drugged without their consent or without a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis that would justify treatment, state and federal inspection reports show.
In all, the Tribune identified 1,200 violations at Illinois nursing homes involving psychotropic medications since 2001. Those infractions affected 2,900 patients.
The actual numbers are likely far higher because regulators inspect some facilities just once every 15 months, and even then they usually check only a small sample of residents for harm.
The Tribune's unprecedented review of more than 40,000 state and federal inspection reports found that nursing homes ranging from "five-star" establishments on the North Shore to run-down facilities in urban neighborhoods have been cited for improperly administering psychotropic drugs.
The paper's review took into account violations for "chemical restraint" and "unnecessary drugs" as well as cases involving dosages that exceeded safety standards or falls in which psychotropics possibly played a role.
While some nursing home residents suffer from major mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, the inspection reports show that many patients harmed by antipsychotic drugs had not been diagnosed with psychosis. They were disabled by Alzheimer's disease, cancer or Parkinson's disease. Some were blind or so frail that they could not breathe without the aid of an oxygen tank.
The findings come at a difficult time for Illinois nursing homes, which are already under fire for housing violent felons alongside geriatric patients and for failing to accurately assess the risk posed by the most serious offenders.
The misuse of psychotropics, which some experts say is a nationwide problem in nursing homes, suggests a troubling future for many seniors.
Full Article and Source:
Compromised Care: Psychotropic Drugs Given to Nursing Home Patients Without Cause