Research shows that more than a fifth of all nursing home residents across New York and the nation take antipsychotic medications. Also, the number of nursing home residents receiving schizophrenia diagnoses skyrocketed 70% between 2012 and 2021. These numbers raise questions about how many nursing homes are making false schizophrenia diagnoses to medicate patients and make them easier to manage.
According to Business Insider, less than 1% of the U.S. population has schizophrenia, so the numbers do not add up. Additionally, the majority of individuals diagnosed with the condition receive their diagnoses in their 20s and 30s and not as older adults.
Concerning the evidence of false diagnoses
According to Medicare records, 15% of American nursing home residents currently take antipsychotic drugs. However, these records do not include patients who take antipsychotic drugs for schizophrenia. Why? Facilities do not have to report when patients take them explicitly for this purpose. This suggests that the true number of nursing home residents taking antipsychotic medications is likely much higher than 15%.
Also troubling is the fact that about one-third of nursing home residents who receive schizophrenia diagnoses have no Medicare history of receiving treatment for the condition.
Side effects of antipsychotics
Some patients with genuine schizophrenia diagnoses benefit from taking antipsychotic medications. However, these drugs often lead to serious side effects, making them dangerous when used unnecessarily. Heart failure, stroke, infection and death are among the side effects experienced by older adults with dementia who take antipsychotics.
Today’s nursing home employees have a duty to manage residents without the use of potentially harmful and unnecessary drugs.