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Do nursing homes overmedicate to make residents more docile?

On Behalf of | Sep 21, 2022 | Firm News |

Nursing home residents across New Jersey and the rest of the United States are increasingly receiving schizophrenia diagnoses. This is true despite the fact that most people diagnosed as schizophrenic receive their diagnoses much earlier in life. In fact, the number of nursing home residents diagnosed with schizophrenia has increased so much over the last decade that it is raising questions about whether all these diagnoses have merit.

According to Business Insider, the number of nursing home residents diagnosed with schizophrenia rose 70% since 2012.

How common schizophrenia diagnoses are in nursing homes

Current estimates suggest that one out of every nine residents now has a schizophrenia diagnosis. Yet, only somewhere between about 0.25% and 0.64% of the U.S. population actually has schizophrenia. More than a fifth of today’s nursing home residents also have prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs, which some nursing home staff members use to treat restlessness or agitation in residents.

Why nursing home staff may be over-diagnosing schizophrenia

Certain drugs used to treat schizophrenia tend to make patients more docile and therefore easier for nursing home staff members to manage. A recent New York Times study showed that some schizophrenia diagnoses in nursing homes lack merit and arise even when there is no clear evidence that a resident actually has the condition. A 2021 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also showed that about a third of all nursing home residents diagnosed with schizophrenia have no Medicare records indicating they received past treatment for it.

Schizophrenia rates in nursing homes are so much higher than they are within the general population. Thus, many medical professionals allege that certain nursing homes are using these diagnoses and medications to skirt rules and make things easier on themselves.