Healthy Aging

Nursing Homes Still Hotbeds of Abusive Drugging

The statistics are scary, the stories horrifying.

Antipsychotic medications, intended to treat mental illness such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, continue to be prescribed off-label to nursing home residents with no mental-health diagnosis – sometimes with fatal results. A recent investigation by the Gotham Gazette found the practice to be especially prevalent in New York nursing homes.

Administering the medicines can help nursing home staff control agitated or restless patients, observers say.

While the problem of antipsychotic abuse in nursing homes has been recognized for decades, increasing evidence shows it’s widespread and continuing.

Nationwide, more than one in five nursing home residents are given the antipsychotic medications, according to a new study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers studied pharmacy data from 48 states, and the information included drugs taken by half of all nursing home residents in the US.

NYC a Hotbed of Abusive Drugging

New York City may have more than its fair share of antipsychotic drug abuse, according to an in-depth investigative report posted in the Gotham Gazette. About one in four of New York City’s more than 40,000 nursing home residents are on the meds, according to the Gazette, citing 2011 data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Gotham report includes heart-breaking real-life stories. An older auto-shop owner with dementia was given antipsychotics in a New York nursing home, despite FDA warnings that the medicines boost the risk of death in dementia patients.

The 78-year-old developed bedsores, which a medical expert linked to the antipsychotics; he then developed a fatal bloodstream infection from the bedsores.

You can read the Gotham report, “Investigation: How NYC Nursing Homes Drug Seniors Into Submission,” by clicking here.

In the JAMA study, the researchers evaluated 1.4 million nursing home residents nationwide, finding that more than 308,000 had been given at least one prescription for an antipsychotic.

The top three? Quietiapine (Seroquel), Risperidone (Risperdal) and Olanzapine (Zyprexa).

Efforts to stop the problem are ongoing, with the FDA and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services involved.

Among the most vocal in attempts to put an end to the unnecessary administration of antipsychotics is the Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.  The organization is actively pursuing federal legislation to stop the problem, says Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy.

The Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care site includes an antipsychotic drug ”tool kit” (click here to access it). The kit helps site visitors learn about the issue, follow legislation and take action.

How Can You Take Action?

We asked Grant what seniors and others can do to help stem the tide of abusive drug practices? “We would urge people to join our [free] action network,” Grant told Senior Planet.  From the home page, click the green box that says “Sign up for the Consumer Voice Action Network.”

“As we work on issues and need grassroots support, we make it easy for people to send a message to their congressman,” she says. “We will keep you up to date when action is needed.”

On a personal level, Grant says, families can ask the administrators of their loved one’s nursing home for  a care plan conference. Ask: Why was this medicine prescribed? Have you tried an alternative?

Do you know anyone who has been prescribed antipsychotics unnecessarily? Tell us in the comments section below.


5 responses to “Nursing Homes Still Hotbeds of Abusive Drugging

  1. My mother was in a convalescent home in New York and the phsycologist gave her drugs that made her very aggressive and her personality was change to that of a different person. I told him to stop giving my mother that medication but he continued. It gave her heart problems and she died. I living in Canada could not be there to monitor what was going on.

  2. ihave had these type of drugs put in my food ended up loosing apt. And in the street where the drugging continued and stayed in the street for 6years because of it iI was raped many times and abused physically and could do nothing because of the drugs.

  3. i think they lied to me when i asked about them using haldol. i wanted to spend my last few says with my father but he was completely out of it. they told me it was morphine but i can tell the difference because my husband was schizophrenic and had to take haldol. i think they wanted him found mentally unstable so they can disinherit me. i took a urine sample from his urinal but no one screens for haldol.
    i took a hair sample too can anyone help?

    desperate in portland oregon

    1. Good Morning. I live in Portland, Or. , also.
      If you know a nurse or lab tech, you might ask how to test for Haldol, or maybe an internet search might be helpful. Blood tests are probably what is normally used. With the HIPPA laws, unless you are the Medical Representative, backed with a Medical Power of Atty, or Guardian, you are cut off from knowing or helping your loved one. It’s wrong, criminal, fraudulent, and a convenient way to create psychotic behavior, appoint a Guardian who grabs his estate, and cut family off from even visiting because you would be labeled as ‘disruptive’, etc. This is all for total control and profit between the AMA and its minions and the Pharmaceuticals. I call it Pharmaceutical Euthanasia. I saw it at a Hospice I worked at, etc. Medical personnel don’t inform the patient of what they’re given, hospitals cut people off of drugs they’re on (think severe withdrawal and crisis) and put them on new drugs. It is ‘processing’ human beings, while making a tidy profit.
      If you know a Personal Injury attorney, one that has experience w/ medical issues, that is your best bet, but expect judges that are in bed with this Guardianship process and the Institutions. Profit for all. Sorry to inform you.
      Marty Prehn is a National Elder Advocate. Marty Oakley on Blogtalk Radio is another source of info on elder abuse. You can contact me for further info or support at My best.

  4. We treat our elderly worse than the concentration camps, stripping them of their human, patient and citizenship rights. Which of us would like to be drugged with antipsychotics so we could be in a living hell? And yet, even 3 yr. olds are being violated with Pharmaceuticals like this.

    One of the side effects of Seroquel, for instance, is to paralyze the swallowing mechanism, so the person begins to aspirate food and water into their lungs, and they die of pneumonia-some after multiple cases of pneumonia and antibiotic use.

    Only when the greed of eldercare institutions is addressed and rebalanced, and the courts and ‘Ombudsman’ programs are truly acting in the best interest of our elderly will this system change.

    If a person is poor, your tax dollars will be spent to the tune of $13-20,000+ a month, to abuse your own parent with Pharmaceutical drugging and neglect.

    If we really cared about human life, families would be compensated instead, and provided Respite care, to care for their own. We would see costs plummet, compassion once again become the center of medical care, and this horrible abuse stopped…

    A Social Worker whose own father was abused and murdered by our current system.

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