Dementia

The Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi understands how difficult it is when a loved one begins showing signs of dementia. Even worse, however, is watching an already deteriorating loved one being abused or neglected by a nursing home. Our elder abuse attorneys are all nursing home neglect specialists who are very familiar with issues such as dementia that are very prevalent in skilled nursing facilities.

Although the early signs of dementia are often manifested as memory loss, the symptoms become more serious as the condition progresses. In addition to forgetfulness, patients also experience difficulty learning new skills, withdrawal from usual interests, a loss of basic social skills and etiquette, and often even a complete change in personality.

While dementia may develop independently as a result of old age, it is often directly caused by other health conditions such as Lewy body disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Lyme disease, Parkinson’s disease, Pick’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, and other infections that can affect the brain. If your loved one is afflicted by any of these diseases, it is of utmost importance that you and the nursing home take extra precautions to prevent of delay the onset of dementia.

Those who suffer from dementia often experience episodes of agitation and violent behavior, an example of their loss of basic social skills. Such patients are often at risk of being chemically restrained, particularly in nursing homes that are chronically understaffed and do not have the resources to provide proper care for dementia and all its symptoms. The most commonly abused chemical restraints are antipsychotic drugs , which are known for their sedative effects. However, multiple studies have proven that the use of drugs to tranquilize dementia patients who are having episodes of agitation only worsens their condition. As the symptoms of dementia are highly correlated to the use of drugs, it is logical to conclude that treatments for dementia must be behavioral, rather than pharmacological.

Although the moderate use of medication is sometimes warranted, we often find that drugs are used for the convenience of the nursing home staff. In fact, 80% of antipsychotic drug prescriptions in nursing homes are for the off-label purpose of sedating dementia patients. Nursing home residents, who are elderly and often already taking several medications simultaneously, can suffer serious consequences from taking too many drugs. Therefore, it is important to limit drug intake to only those medications that are absolutely necessary.

The chemical interactions of so many different drugs in these patients’ already frail bodies have many adverse effects, such as polypharmacy and delirium. It is the responsibility of the nursing home to employ effective communication and accurate documentation so that physicians are aware of the medications currently being prescribed to a patient and can be mindful of polypharmacy and adverse drug reactions before prescribing additional medications.

Whether the issue is drug abuse or polypharmacy, all of these problems are usually direct consequences of inadequate staffing. If your loved one suffers from dementia and is not being provided with proper care as a result of understaffing, he or she may be a victim of nursing home neglect. Contact us today to see how we can help your loved one attain the rights to which he or she is entitled.