For-Profit Medicine Incentivizes Overmedicating Our Elderly

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From NBC: According to human rights investigators, anti-psychotic drugs are often administered to nursing home residents to address behavioral issues. Our nation’s lack of funding and resources for residential care homes has fueled this epidemic of overprescribing and human rights violations.

“Though the challenges of aging are inter-generational and universal, the chronic overuse of medication parallels wider social disparities facing the aging and a culture of medicine based on market incentives and pernicious segregation. Residential care homes today are financially drained, severely short-staffed, and often stratified by cruel inequality in the care quality and access.

Substandard care also intersects with a wealth gap across US society that deepens with age. Although Medicare broadly covers healthcare for seniors over age 65, Medicaid, which serves the poorest patients, is the primary federal support for long-term care services for seniors and people with disabilities. Those funds are dwindling as medical costs soar and elder care needs swell. In 2017, roughly a thousand nursing homes nationwide were severely understaffed (defined as having two-thirds or less of the federal minimum number of staffers). Meanwhile, under Trump, the Obama administration’s staffing and care quality standards under the Affordable Care Act are being rolled back as healthcare spending is assaulted by the Republican-dominated government.

Those problems aggravate the situation HRW identifies: a rising population of Alzheimer’s patients demand more attention than the harried staff can provide, which drives a culture of over-medication. In some counties, the rate of anti-psychotic drug use ranged as high as 40 to 60 percent of nursing home residents. An interviewee said that when staff interpreted her mother’s underlying issues with bipolar disorder as ‘acting out,’ they dosed her with anti-psychotics to the point that ‘She wouldn’t talk. She wouldn’t laugh. She wouldn’t cry. She wouldn’t do anything. She would just sit and stare like she wasn’t even there.'”

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