New York Times investigates the actual rate of antipsychotic drug use in nursing homes

The New York Times found over twenty percent of nursing home residents are on antipsychotic drugs. Antipsychotic drugs are incredibly hazardous for older people with dementia, almost doubling their chance of death from falls, infections, and heart problems. The risks to these patients treated with antipsychotics are so high, that nursing homes must report the number of residents on these medications to the government. However, the government does not publicly release the use of antipsychotic drugs given to residents with schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, or Huntington’s disease. Investigators found that the government and industry are not sharing the true rate of antipsychotic drug use on residents nationwide. 

Nursing homes that are understaffed have often turned to using sedatives to handle residents instead of hiring more staff. Hiding the high rates of antipsychotic drug use can help a nursing home’s rating from the government. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversee nursing homes, is concerned about this practice and will monitor facilities who diagnose a resident to improve their performance measures and hold them accountable. 

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