You might not think your senior loved one could become addicted to medication, illegal drugs, or alcohol while living in a nursing home. Unfortunately, substance abuse in nursing homes is a real possibility that hurts seniors and their families. Even misusing prescription drugs can result in several health issues such as heart attacks, kidney and liver diseases, or seizures. In worst-case scenarios, the senior could die from an overdose.
Early intervention can give your senior loved one a better chance at recovery. You can help them live a healthier, more fulfilling life in their twilight years.
Effects of Substance Abuse Dangerous for Older Adults
Substance abuse is dangerous for anyone, regardless of their age. However, seniors often have existing conditions that could exacerbate the substance’s side effects. For instance, they could already have cardiovascular complications. If they use stimulant drugs such as cocaine, which makes the heart work harder, they might end up with heart failure or a stroke.
Aside from affecting the elder physically, substance abuse can also influence how quickly their mental health deteriorates, especially if they already have cognitive disorders. A psychoactive medication user with dementia may become increasingly agitated, confused, or forgetful — even more so than what you would typically expect at the stage of their condition.
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Symptoms of Substance Abuse Might Be Hard to Notice
A problem with discovering substance abuse in nursing homes is that its symptoms might be mistaken for another physical or mental health issue. You or the caregiver might mistake their worsening behavior or memory problems as signs that their dementia has advanced. You might have to observe the elder more closely for any signs that they use alcohol, drugs, or other medications.
Some signs that they might exhibit include depression, irritation, and mood swings. More severe cases might have instances of hallucinations. Their speech could become slurred, and they might lose interest in other activities in the nursing home. You might also notice that they use up their prescription drugs much faster than usual. They may have the prescribed amount increased due to their increased tolerance for the medication.
Do take note that different drugs and medications can have varying effects on a person. A medical professional can help determine the substances that the elder has taken.
How Nursing Homes Can Be Held Liable
Under U.S. federal law, long-term care facilities are required to provide a standard of care that promotes their residents’ quality of life. This includes correctly implementing the senior’s medication plans and ensuring they do not take anything that endangers their health. A facility could fail at this due to their negligence or abusive staff.
The Nursing Home Is Negligent
A nursing home can be guilty of negligence if it does not take steps to protect its senior residents from harm. For example, the staff might not closely monitor the elder’s medication intake, causing them to take more than they should and, in the process, become addicted.
There is also the chance that they do not adequately secure their medication storage area, allowing anyone to get the medicine stored inside. Perhaps they do not have any measures against the selling of illegal drugs on the premises. Not only does this become a matter of negligence, but it is a security lapse as well.
Caregivers Are Abusive
It is also possible that the resident’s caregiver is responsible for their substance addiction. An abuser may use any act that brings harm to their victim, whether physically or psychologically. They could force a senior to use drugs, drink alcohol, or overdose on their pills. The caregiver might also use substance abuse to manipulate the elder so that they can exploit the individual’s finances.
In a way, the fact that an abusive caregiver is in the nursing home is also a form of negligence on the facility’s part. They might not have provided sufficient training or screened their employees adequately.
Your Senior Loved One Could Be in Danger
The threat of substance abuse in nursing homes could be something that your elderly loved one struggles with. It might even be the sign of a much deeper problem with the facility. If the management and staff fail to address their senior residents’ issues or are the direct cause of those issues, do not hesitate to report the facility to local health authorities or law enforcement, or the state agency that handles these kinds of complaints. They can help ensure the facility answers to its errors.
You or your loved ones may also want to take legal action against the parties responsible for the substance abuse issue. Our attorneys at Ben Crump Law, PLLC, can guide you through the laws and filing requirements for your case. We deal with nursing home abuse, medical malpractice, and other types of personal injury and civil rights violations in the United States.
For a free case consultation with us, please call our legal team at 800-959-1444.