Stop Overmedicating Seniors in Nursing Homes

Target: Alex Azar, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services

Goal: Stop nursing homes from intentionally misusing drugs to control the behavior of residents with dementia.

Senior citizens with dementia in our country are forced into submission by being drugged into a stupor. Over five million people are afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia, and the difficulty of caring for these patients often leads to their placement in nursing homes. Reportedly, many assisted-living facilities use antipsychotics, sedatives, and other drugs to keep residents quiet and docile.

When elderly patients take extreme and unnecessary dosages of medicine, they are overmedicated. If seniors who are reliant on others for their care are given too much medication intentionally for the convenience of caregiver or staff, it is considered “chemical restraint.” Deemed elder abuse, it is prohibited by federal law.

Many dementia patients experience periodic or consistent anxiety and aggression. Over 300,000 nursing homes in our country currently use antipsychotics to alleviate these behavioral symptoms. This practice is problematic because these drugs are typically approved to remedy severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Appallingly, the use of these medications puts dementia patients at higher risk for heart failure, infections, and death.

Past research at the University of South Florida revealed a shocking number of Medicaid seniors in Florida convalescent homes were prescribed antipsychotic drugs within the first three months of their residency. Many of these individuals were not previously using these medications because it wasn’t considered necessary. Although there have been improvements over the last decade, there is still much to be done to assure these disadvantaged senior citizens are protected and given appropriate care.

Surely our society has enough emotional intelligence to allow seniors to have a voice when it comes to their own health. Ensuring the rights of disadvantaged and elderly citizens is plainly the right thing to do. There must be increased outreach and education to reduce the misuse of these medications, and healthier and holistic geriatric care alternatives should be explored and implemented. Sign the petition below to demand the overmedicating of senior dementia patients be stopped, and their right to free and informed consent restored.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Secretary Azar,

Despite decreases in the use of antipsychotic drugs in convalescent homes over the last decade, tens of thousands of senior citizens with dementia continue to be dosed with these medications daily. Reportedly, these highly potent drugs are often given for the sole purpose of sedation and not administered for the treatment of any specific health condition. Apparently, many patients and family members are not informed about what the senior is taking, and neither are given the right of refusal.

We must strive to continuously improve the way we address the issue of aging in our country. Currently, we appear callous and disrespectful to seniors, as if they have no value. Older is wiser, and as a society we have much to gain from the wisdom of our elders. It is atrocious that seniors are being sedated to the point of speechlessness.

As the baby boomer generation continues to retire and our population ages, the issue of proper geriatric care is increasingly important. Please assure that seniors with dementia are not overmedicated to conveniently silence them, and offer them holistic health care alternatives as opposed to drugs. Protect all seniors with stricter law enforcement to assure that nursing homes clearly inform the patient and family members about the prescribed medication plan and their right to refuse treatment.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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4 Comments

  1. Our country is doing a very poor job in caring for our older citizens. Seniors are treated with little respect, even rudely (particularly women), and empathy and compassion is in very limited supply.
    Many advanced civilized democratic countries treat their seniors much more kindly and respectful. In America, we have an excessive amount of abuse. It is difficult enough for people to age and lose many of their abilities, while slowing down, yet many have immense accumulated wisdom. It is a pathetic shame, that our country makes it so much harder, when they could do more to assist and appreciate.
    Living in a nursing home has to be a very difficult time, which is why so many people fear being placed in one. Even the best, most expensive, (with frequent friends/family visits) are a considerable challenge. The sad stories are plentiful. Add a diagnosis of dementia to a list of other illnesses, and an often purposeless, sedentary lonely lifestyle–who wants or deserves that?! Overmedicating seniors with dementia (to control their behavior), making them unable to deal with anything or even understand their reality, reducing their options of any life choices–is inexcusable!

  2. Mongoose Jones says:

    OK: from the perspective of someone whose mother had Alzheimers’ and who lived with us for the final 5 yrs of her life…..NOT medicating an Alzheimer or other Dementia patient will NOT help them be able to DECIDE about their care and other things…trust me! The very statement in the petition is laughable: “Surely our society has enough emotional intelligence to allow seniors to have a voice when it comes to their own health. Ensuring the rights of disadvantaged and elderly citizens is plainly the right thing to do. There must be increased outreach and education to reduce the misuse of these medications, and healthier and holistic geriatric care alternatives should be explored and implemented.” Whoever wrote that should spend a week or two caring for someone with Dementia! (By the way, my mother was never on any antipsychotic meds, they are NOT necessary).

  3. Gen Agustsson says:

    stop it! drug overdoes doesn’t do any good.

  4. Thank You. I signed.

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