Updated February 18, 2020

What Is Elder Medication Abuse?

According to AARP, older adults take an average of 4.5 medications each month, and that amount tends to increase with age. When an elder in a nursing home or other long-term care facility requires medication, they trust staff members and nurses to give them the right dose of the correct medication.

Unfortunately, caregivers don’t always administer medication appropriately—and when they make mistakes, intentionally or accidentally, it could constitute elder medication abuse.

What are the types of Elder Medication Abuse?

Elder medication abuse can take many forms, including improperly administered medication, overmedication, or wrong medication.

Improperly Administered Medication

Prescription medications have specific instructions that must be followed when administering the drug. Some examples of improperly administered medication include the following:

  • Slicing a pill that shouldn’t be cut
  • Not providing adequate food, liquids, or antacids with the medication
  • Failing to mix, shake, or roll the medication as required
  • Dispensing expired medication, too much medication, or not enough medication
  • Not monitoring the resident after administering the medication

Any failure to follow the directions of medication could be considered negligent behavior.

Overmedication or Chemical Restraint

A 2018 Human Rights Watch report found that nursing home staff members in the United States administered antipsychotic drugs to over 179,000 people—who were not prescribed such medication—every week. These drugs are often administered without informed consent for their sedative effect.

Overmedication can be used as a type of chemical restraint, with staff members giving antipsychotic medications to nursing home residents in an attempt to subdue them. The consequences of these abusive actions are severe.

Wrong Medication

Overworked and overwhelmed staff members make mistakes. One such error could involve giving a resident medication that was prescribed to another resident. Administering the wrong medication runs the risk of dangerous side effects and drug interactions, not to mention the consequences of the untreated problem for which the medication was originally prescribed.

What are the Signs of Medication Abuse in Elders?

Symptoms of elder medication abuse can vary widely:

  • Erratic changes in behavior
  • Unusual exhaustion or fatigue
  • Unusual lethargic behavior
  • Unexplained physical or medical complications
  • Withdrawal from social events or family visits
  • Loss of appetite
  • Oversleeping
  • Acting “zombie-like”
  • Disorientation, confusion, or forgetfulness

Keep on the lookout for these signs, and get help if you suspect medication abuse.

Contact a Nursing Home and Elder Abuse Attorney Today

If you suspect that your elderly loved one is being abused or neglected, contact the Indianapolis Nursing Home and Elder Abuse Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you and your family get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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