From diabetes and blood pressure medicine to painkillers and antidepressants, many Americans regularly take at least one medication to manage a serious health condition. There are thousands more medications and supplements available to individuals, both via prescription and over-the-counter.
While utilizing multiple medications may be beneficial or even necessary, it can also be dangerous. The routine use of five or more medications, also known as polypharmacy, is an increasingly serious issue in the U.S., particularly among older adults. It is especially prevalent in nursing homes.
Polypharmacy can be hazardous for a few reasons. Most prescriptions have side effects, and taking multiple drugs together increases the risk of harm. Furthermore, taking multiple medications can increase the risk of medication errors and injuries. Nursing home abuse is a prevalent issue in U.S. care facilities. Some staff may use medication to control residents, which may cause physical and psychological harm.
If your loved one suffered illness or injury in a nursing home and you believe polypharmacy may be the cause, consider turning to a Louisiana polypharmacy lawyer for support. Polypharmacy injuries can be severe and sometimes fatal. Those responsible must be held liable for their actions.
The team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm is dedicated to helping families seek justice for their loved ones. Call the office at (800) 842-6336 to talk with a staff member to discuss your situation via a free consultation.
Polypharmacy Risks that You or Your Loved One May Have Suffered From
Taking too many medications simultaneously without proper supervision can have tragic consequences. The risk is especially high in seniors, as they already tend to be more vulnerable to illness and injuries. In addition to adverse drug interactions, other potential effects of polypharmacy include:
● Cognitive impairment
● Malnutrition & dehydration
● Urinary incontinence
● Organ damage
A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 50% of drug deaths studied involved multiple prescriptions or medications. If your loved one’s death was caused or contributed to by multiple medications, a Louisiana polypharmacy lawyer can help.
Why Polypharmacy May Have Occurred in Your Loved One’s Circumstances
Polypharmacy is sometimes a legitimate and necessary means of treating multiple conditions. Seniors are more likely than other demographics to have more than one ailment at a time. Doctors may prescribe different medications to treat a single disease or injury or treat multiple conditions that may not be related. They may also prescribe one drug to treat the side effects of another.
However, most responsible doctors try to avoid prescribing too many medications simultaneously. At the very least, they will likely try to minimize the length of time a patient is taking multiple medications. They may suggest alternatives, such as lifestyle changes, therapy, and assistive devices.
Lack of communication between different medical providers can cause polypharmacy. Suppose doctors do not communicate with one another, and the patient or caregiver does not update doctors about their current medication regimen.
In that case, a provider may prescribe a medication without realizing it could interact adversely with another drug the patient is already taking. Likewise, changes in dosage may affect other medicines. This is why patients must keep medical providers up to date and inform them of all medications and supplements they are taking.
In nursing homes, residents typically rely on staff to administer their medication. Caregivers, like doctors, must communicate and maintain up-to-date records to reduce the risk of errors. If caregivers do not dispense drugs as prescribed, patients can suffer serious consequences.
In some cases, caregivers may administer too much of a medication as a means of controlling or sedating a resident, which could be extremely dangerous, even fatal.
Nursing Home Understaffing
Understaffing and a lack of adequate facilities is a widespread issue nationwide, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). It is also a contributing factor in polypharmacy injuries. Staffing issues are often a result of underfunded facilities or those that cut corners to increase profits.
When nursing homes lack adequate staff, communication breakdowns and errors are more likely to occur. In inadequately staffed facilities, employees without appropriate training may be required to administer medications.
They may also inadvertently offer over-the-counter medications, which may have adverse effects. Also, understaffed nursing homes may not have enough medical staff to properly monitor patients’ conditions and supervise drug administration.
In understaffed facilities without adequate patient supervision, providers may assume polypharmacy symptoms indicate another health condition. In response, they may prescribe even more medications, compounding the issue and increasing the risk of serious harm.
Nursing Home Abuse
Abuse and neglect are widespread issues nationwide and within the state. Some abusers use polypharmacy tactics to control residents. Specifically, some facilities use antipsychotics to make residents more docile. Staff may administer such drugs without patients’ (or their families’) consent. In addition to being unethical, this practice is illegal and dangerous.
Nursing home abuse of any kind can have severe consequences. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), even moderate abuse can increase the risk of death by 300 percent compared to elders who have not been abused. Victims also tend to have significantly higher levels of psychological distress and lower self-esteem, which can significantly impact their quality of life.
How a Louisiana Polypharmacy Lawyer Can Help
If your elderly family member suffered as a result of polypharmacy in a Louisiana nursing home, you may want to consider seeking legal counsel. While no amount of money can make up for the pain and suffering your family has endured, financial awards may help you pay for:
● Medical bills
● Assistive devices
● Long-term treatment
● Other costs associated with polypharmacy injuries
Seeking justice against perpetrators of abuse, neglect, and other misconduct is crucial to crack down on such issues. If you are interested in finding out how a lawyer could help you, turn to Pintas & Mullins Law Firm. Our team is dedicated to advocating for nursing home patients and their families.
Call the office at (800) 842-6336 to speak with a staff member. We will offer a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your situation and determine if you have a case.