Nursing Home Investigation for Over Medicating Patients

Posted on Feb 25, 2010 10:09am PST

Last week, state officials launched an investigation to determine why residents at a Chapel Hill nursing home tested positive for pain medication they should not have been taking.

A team from the Nursing Home Licensure Section of North Carolina’s Division of Health Service Regulation was sent to Britthaven of Chapel Hill to gather information about drugs administered to Alzheimer’s patients.

According to WRAL, three Alzheimer’s patients were taken to UNC Hospital after they started acting unusual. The hospital, concerned the patients were over-medicated, contacted the police, regulators from the Department of Health and Human Services, and Britthaven. The patients’ blood tests showed there appeared to be drugs in their systems they hadn’t been prescribed.

After the incident, Britthaven then tested all of its Alzheimer’s patients. Of the 25 patients, six tested positive for opiates and three of those six had to be hospitalized. One of the patients who was hospitalized passed away, but it was not reported whether she died from the drugs or from another cause.

The team of inspectors from the Nursing Home Licensure Section is still awaiting lab results to determine what medications could have contributed to the opiate levels found in the patients. Jeff Horton, head of the Division of Health Service Regulation, says some of the medications the patients were taking could cause false positives for opiates.

Britthaven says it is taking the appropriate steps to ensure the safety of its patients, and has replaced some of the medications and dietary supplements it was previously giving patients. Britthaven also tested each staff member of the Alzheimer’s Unit for drugs. All tested negative, but for now remain on paid leave.

Over-medication is a common form of nursing home abuse and is often committed against patients suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Over medicating, also called chemical restraint, can be a common mistake, but sometimes is done intentionally to control a patient’s behavior. If you think your loved one has been overmedicated in a nursing home, and you fear his or her safety is at a risk, an experienced North Carolina nursing home abuse attorney at Lanier Law Group, P.A. can help. To arrange a consultation to discuss your legal options, contact the office today by calling 855.234.7619!

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