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Substance Abuse in Nursing Homes


When given the task of providing a close watch of medical and housing care for human beings the responsibility can be sobering. Management must keep a close watch not only over their patients/residents but also their employees, to guarantee the quality of care they provide.

Nursing home services operate multiple programs that run every day. Provided services include nursing care, 24-hour supervision, food, preparation, and feeding assistance. Managed daily activities such as rehabilitation services, physical, occupational, and even speech therapy are possible.

In 2014 statistics show about 2,022 nursing homes operating in the United States. In 2015 the number of serving employees was over 1.8 million people, an increase from 1.6 million in the year 2000. Nursing homes house multiple age groups not just the elderly. In 2013, the Nursing Home Data Compendium estimated that 15% of nursing home residents in the United States are under 65 years old. Individuals can be much younger due to being disabled or in the process of rehabilitation.

In an environment where there is a consistent distribution flow of pharmaceutical drugs, substance abuse can be a high-risk factor and a multi-faceted concern for everyone involved! With that in mind, management must always operate with eyes on mentality, a policy of strict discipline as well as an everyday demand for accountability.

According to The Nursing Home Abuse Center: The issue of substance abuse in nursing homes is no small matter. by 2030, the population of Americans over 65 is slated to increase to 72.1 million. Add to that the estimated 57.7 million people estimated to have a diagnosable mental health disorder, and the problem of substance abuse is staggering. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to the problem at this present time.

  • Elder Care is a growing part of the healthcare industry, with thousands more nurses and aides needed every year.
  • The most widely abused prescription drugs are Oxycodone and Morphine derivatives.
  • These painkillers are available in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and throughout hospice care.
  • None of these facilities have the same medication controls as a hospital.

It can be commonplace to intercept medication from elderly patients/residents that are accustomed to some constant pain or discomfort. This is called "drug diversion" but is happening for patients experiencing the end of life as residents in nursing homes. This is not everyday news as it is hardly mentioned or heard about.

Most nursing homes do not have substance abuse programs on-site, and few have stable referral programs for short-term residents who will be released back into the public.

Coluccio Law states: More than 100,00 doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers are abusing drugs - mostly, narcotics.

USA Today Reports: Doctors and medical staff on drugs put patients at risk.

Drug Testing should be a strongly enforced policy in any nursing home. Not only for employees but residents as well, to monitor the effectiveness of the drug being administered.

The Office of Inspector General states: a government report has documented a problem regarding the use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes. Too many of these institutions fail to comply with federal regulations designed to prevent overmedication, giving nursing home patients antipsychotic drugs in ways that violate federal standards for unnecessary drug use. The report also found that these powerful, at time dangerous drugs were often prescribed for uses that are not approved by the FDA. Most alarming, 88% of the time these drugs were prescribed for elderly patients with dementia, a population the FDA has warned faces increased risk of death from this class of drugs.

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