medication abuse in nursing homes

Nursing homes are meant to be a safe place where your elderly loved ones can be properly cared for in the later stages of their life. However, we know that many reported instances of elder abuse take place in these facilities. Medication abuse in nursing homes is one them. This is where patients are not properly supervised and are allowed to overdose on medications. Alternatively, it can also refer to situations where staff improperly administer medication to residents to control their behavior or knowingly injure them.

If your loved one has been the victim of nursing home negligence, call Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath today. We will provide you with a free consultation to determine your next steps. 


Symptoms of Medication Abuse

It is challenging to identify the symptoms of medication abuse in nursing homes, as the symptoms can be easily misdiagnosed as another physical or mental health issue.

One of the common symptoms, memory loss, is also a common side effect of old age. You or the elder’s caregiver may assume that it is due to dementia, Alzheimers, or confusion brought on by old age. Other symptoms such as behavioral problems can be a sign of dementia, rebelling against the nursing home, or other physical illnesses. 

Without proper monitoring by nursing home staff, it may go unnoticed. Since nursing home staff are often the ones perpetrating the medication abuse, you may be gaslighted if you bring up your suspicions.

Elderly victims of medication abuse are prone to depression, mood swings, and irritation. They can have issues speaking clearly and participating in nursing home activities. In severe cases, they may have hallucinations or organ failure.

To determine if your elderly loved one is being abused by the nursing home staff via their medication, have them examined by a third-party doctor. They may be adverse reactions to medication. 


Nursing Home Liability

U.S. federal law mandates that nursing home or long-term care facilities appropriately care for their patients and maintain or improve their residents’ quality of life. This includes ensuring that the facilities are clean, feeding them nutritious meals, and dispensing the appropriate medications as prescribed by a physician.

In some cases, seniors will take medication they are not supposed to. This is substance abuse and it can be brought on by the nursing home itself.

In other cases, medication abuse is the fault of the nursing home staff who consciously withhold medication or increase the dosage.



Many nursing homes are understaffed but have high volumes of work that need to be done. Staff may take their frustrations out on residents by not appropriately performing their job.

Staff members that do not monitor medication intake are facilitating medication abuse by elders. These individuals may take too much or too little as a result of their forgetfulness. Taking too much medication can cause addiction or fatal overdoses.

This negligence makes the nursing home liable. As they have a federal liability to provide adequate care and they have failed to do so, the staff and/or the nursing home can be sued for damages.


Elder Abuse

Unfortunately, the people that you hire to care for your loved one are not always trustworthy. Some caregivers in nursing homes use their position of power to abuse elderly patients. They may sexually, physically, emotionally, or financially abuse patients to the point that the patient wants to self-medicate to handle their negative emotions.

In other cases, the staff may be the ones forcing the medication abuse by making residents use drugs, take higher or lower doses of their medication, or drink alcohol. This may be done to incapacitate them so they may gain access to their finances or to keep them quiet in general.

Facilities are liable for anything that an abusive caregiver does to residents, as they should have properly screened and supervised their actions to ensure the safety of residents. If your loved one was injured due to elder abuse in a nursing home, call a lawyer immediately. You can sue the nursing home for damages and get justice for the residents involved.


Examples of Medication Abuse

  • Giving residents expired medication 
  • Giving too little or skipping a dose of a required medication
  • Overdosing a patient with their medication
  • Improperly administering the medication
  • Giving the wrong medication to a resident
  • Not monitoring the patient after their medication 
  • Ignoring administration orders 
  • Adding prescription orders for medications that are unnecessary
  • “Borrowing” medication from another resident’s prescriptions
  • Stealing the medication for their own use 
  • Forcing an elderly resident to consume more pills to manipulate behavior


Chemical Restraints

“Chemical restraints” is an industry term referring to drugs such as antipsychotics. These may be used to control the behavior of residents that the staff deems to be “challenging”. Commonly, dementia patients will be prescribed antipsychotics for the convenience of the staff, so they don’t have to adequately care for the individual. A study estimated that over 179,000 residents are overmedicated in this way every week in the United States. 

This practice is illegal. It violates federal laws and human rights laws. Unfortunately, nursing homes are rarely penalized for these crimes.


Contact an Elder Abuse Lawyer

If you believe that your loved one is being chemically restrained or abused via their medication in a nursing home, contact an elder abuse lawyer immediately. It is important to know how to proceed in a way that will protect your loved ones and ensure their safety. 

Call us at (561) 655-1990 today.

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