When you check a loved one into a nursing home, you probably imagine that they will receive outstanding, around-the-clock care. The reality, however, can be quite different—and frightening. Many residents will suffer injuries and staff will intentionally overmedicate many of them. If a nursing home injured your loved one, you need to investigate so that you can find out whether overmedication played a role. An experienced lawyer can help.
Signs of Overmedication
With the typical resident taking several different drugs, nursing home staff can easily give the wrong dosage—or the wrong drugs. However, overmedication often takes place with antipsychotic medicines, and it happens for one reason: control. According to statistics from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicaid Services in 2010, 17 percent of nursing home residents received antipsychotic medications that exceeded the daily recommended dosage. In Florida, the problem is reportedly equally severe.
Furthermore, many residents receive these drugs when they don’t even need them—a clear case of overmedication. In particular, doctors have prescribed drugs like Abilify, Haldol, and Seroquel to dementia patients even though these drugs are not approved for those conditions.
Elderly loved ones may not know whether nursing home staff are giving them more medicine than necessary, or whether they are receiving antipsychotic medicines as a form of control. And you can bet nursing home staff probably won’t quickly point out that fact, either. Instead, you’ll need to look for classic signs of overmedication, such as:
- Constant fatigue
- Confusion or erratic changes in personality
- Reclusive behavior, even around family members
Federal law prohibits using medicine to restrain people, but some nursing homes routinely prescribe more medication than necessary to suppress patients and make them easier to manage. This particular type of overmedication could cause disastrous physical consequences, including death, and definitely constitutes abuse.
Nursing Home Injury—An Accident or Something More Dangerous?
Nursing homes should protect and care for your loved ones at all times. However, overmedication can cause the following injuries:
- Another overmedicated resident begins to behave erratically, attacking and harming your loved one
- Your loved one becomes exhausted and falls down while walking or engaging in another activity
- A loved one becomes confused and wanders away, becoming injured in the process
- Staff or another resident injures your loved one when overmedication causes aggressive behavior
Whenever you visit a loved one at a nursing home, always assess the situation and ask about any injuries or other problems. Sometimes, an unavoidable accident might truly cause a broken bone or bruise. Other times, it might signal that nursing home staff aren’t giving your loved one the proper dose of medication—or the right medicine at all.
Concerned family members should ask staff for a copies of their loved one’s medication order sheet, which should tell you what drugs they receive. If possible, stick around for when staff dispenses medicines and see how much your loved one gets, then compare the amount to what the doctor prescribed. If staff is savvy, they might give a correct dosage simply because you are there, but then go back to overmedicating when you aren’t around. However, you should raise your suspicions with nursing home management, which should investigate any suspicious activity.
Your Legal Rights
Elderly residents should not suffer abuse through overmedication, and Florida law allows you to hold nursing homes accountable for the injuries that this practice causes. Depending on the circumstances, you might sue the nursing home for:
- Battery. If the nursing home intentionally gives inappropriate medication to your loved one, it may face legal liability for battery, which is an intentional tort.
- Negligent supervision. This occurs when the nursing home doesn’t properly supervise its staff, so your loved one gets overmedicated because of the facility’s carelessness.
- Negligent hiring. Some staff, including nurses, might overmedicate as a convenient way to control residents. Nursing homes should run background checks on all new hires to discover any histories of criminal activity or lawsuits. If a nursing home fails to perform the necessary checks, you may sue them for negligent hiring.
The legal cause of action you pursue will depend on the circumstances, which can take months to investigate. Your nursing home attorney might need to request documents from the nursing home and ask staff and management questions under oath to get a fuller picture of what happened to your loved one. But a good first step is to contact an experienced nursing home attorney to begin considering all of your options right away.
What Compensation Can You Receive?
Your loved one might have suffered a serious injury as a result of overmedication, and financial compensation can help pay for:
- Medical expenses to treat the injuries
- Rehabilitation costs
- The expense of weaning your loved one off the medication
- Your loved one’s pain and suffering
- Depending on the circumstances, punitive damages for particularly egregious, intentional conduct
It’s impossible to put a precise price tag on some of these damages, in particular pain and suffering. A lot will depend on the severity of the injury and how well you have documented your loved one’s pain and changes in personality. At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we’ve helped family members recover all of these damages on behalf of their abused loved ones, and we’re prepared to help you.
Speak With a Nursing Home Attorney in Florida, Today
Vulnerable family members deserve compassion and appropriate treatment, not antipsychotic drugs that put them in a stupor. If a nursing home injured your loved one through overmedication, call Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. We aggressively investigate all nursing home injuries and hold facilities accountable for the mistakes they make. Call us today for a free consultation at (727) 451-6900 or fill out our online contact form.