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Investigation Finds Nursing Homes Administering Unneeded Psychiatric Drugs to Patients

A recent investigation of Illinois nursing homes uncovered a scary truth. They found 1,200 violations, which affected 2,900 patients, involving the unnecessary administration of psychiatric medicine. These findings come at a damaging time for Illinois nursing homes, which have recently been under intense scrutiny for—amongst other things—housing violent felons alongside elderly patients.

Nursing facilities keep an inventory of psychiatric drugs for patients suffering from schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions. These drugs should only be prescribed and administered under a physician’s supervision. But all too often, they are given unnecessarily and incorrectly to control uncooperative patients.

The report, published in the Chicago Tribune, states that one patient was administered a psychiatric drug partly because she refused to wear a bra. Other cases involved an elderly man who was “easily annoyed,” an elderly blind woman who would yell loudly, a woman with congestive heart failure who was “nasty” and a woman who repeatedly asked to go to the bathroom. The article also cites a case where a man coherently refused—against staff wishes—to be medicated with psychotropic drugs for sixteen days. On the seventeenth day, a nurse administered the medication without the man’s knowledge or consent.

The administration of psychotropic drugs to patients who have not been prescribed those drugs can lead to grave consequences. On admission to an Illinois nursing facility, a seventy-four year old man was held down and injected with an antipsychotic drug.  Hours after the injection, the man collapsed and suffered a fatal head injury. Other consequences associated with psychotropic drugs are tremors, lethargy, a sharp increase in the risk of falls and death. Many patients on psychotropic medication become distant and, in some cases, almost catatonic. According to the investigation, rather than taking the time to try and calm patients, nursing staff choose to administer antipsychotic medications. Doctors will often approve the administration over the phone, without ever seeing the patient.

Unwarranted medication is just one form of elder abuse commonly seen in nursing homes. Signs of nursing home neglect or abuse include poor hygiene of residents, residents wearing unclean or inappropriate clothing, hazardous conditions, bed sores, wounds and sudden weight loss or dehydration. The appearance of depression and complaints of being restrained for extended periods of time also may indicate nursing home malpractice. Since nursing home patients cannot often communicate abuse to their loved ones or authorities, it is extremely important to pay close attention for these warning signs.

Nursing care patients and their families are entitled to respect and proper care. They should not be subject to abuse, neglect or mistreatment. Placing a loved one in a nursing facility is difficult enough without having to worry about the quality of care received. Our attorneys have successfully defended the rights of thousands of elder-care abuse victims and their families. If you, or someone you know, have been a victim of elder-care abuse, please contact us at for a free consultation. Our attorneys are available to assist in all aspects of your litigation.

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Gavin P. Lentz, Esq.
Bochetto & Lentz

Gavin Lentz (right) was selected as a "Super Lawyer" for 2006-2009 in New Jersey by Philadelphia Magazine. He has also been selected as a "Super Lawyer" by Philadelphia Magazine and the Legal Intelligencer in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

On September 16, 2002 Mr. Lentz was selected as one of the top 50 lawyers in Pennsylvania by the Legal Intelligencer.

He has made many television appearances, including on Fox News, The Today Show, Inside Edition, and The Phil Donahue Show.

Mr. Lentz is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

As a former prosecutor, he knows how to aggressively go after a nursing home to prove the facts necessary to protect your loved one's rights.

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