In Elder Law News

Pile of green, blue, and white capsule pills.In an effort to cut back on overuse of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) is launching an investigation ultimately focused on helping families more accurately assess the safety, quality, and transparency of these types of facilities nationwide.

The CMS has raised the concern is that nursing homes may be misdiagnosing residents as having schizophrenia. As a result, these residents are then needlessly prescribed antipsychotic drugs.

Misuse of these types of medication can pose potential health risks for older patients. Such risks include loss of cognitive function and even death. Experts also worry that such drugs are being prescribed merely to sedate residents when, for example, facilities face staff shortages.

To identify facilities that are improperly prescribing these drugs to residents, the CMS will be conducting audits.

“No nursing home resident should be improperly diagnosed with schizophrenia or given an inappropriate antipsychotic,” Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Health Services said in a news release. “The steps we are taking today will help prevent these errors and give families peace of mind.”

If a nursing home is mistakenly coding residents for schizophrenia, CMS will lower the facility’s quality rating in its public five-star rating system. These ratings appear on the Medicare website’s online Care Compare tool. Care Compare seeks to help consumers compare the quality of nursing home facilities and other types of health care service providers. In addition to its quality measure, the tool rates different nursing homes fare on staff turnover, vaccination rates, health inspections, and more.

CMS will also track whether facilities found to have violated are making improvements if needed.

Residents of nursing homes have the right to be free of unnecessary physical or chemical restraints, which include antipsychotic drugs. If you believe your loved one in a nursing home is taking a needless antipsychotic, contact your local nursing home ombudsperson. Or, get in touch with a qualified elder law attorney in your area.

Learn more about how to choose the right nursing home for your situation.

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