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5 things to know about psychotropics
Illinois Department of Public Health can help with questions

Original source:
October 27, 2009

Your rights: Nursing homes cannot give a psychotropic drug without a doctor's order, informed consent and an adequate diagnosis, according to federal and state regulations. Drugs cannot be administered simply because a resident is disruptive or restless. Rules and guidelines dictate that staff must first try to calm patients; root causes of agitation, such as an infection, must be ruled out. When drugs are given, facilities must check for side effects and reduce dosages when possible.

The consent: Consent forms must be signed by patients or someone with power of attorney. In general, consents must say what drug will be given, how much and how often. If a doctor wants to add a drug, the consent must be re-signed. The patient must be fully informed of risks.

The drugs: Psychotropics include antipsychotics, antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, with antipsychotics generally posing the greatest risks. Antipsychotics are intended primarily to treat serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, but doctors may prescribe them "off label" for other conditions. Psychotropics may be used in nursing homes with adequate and documented justification.

Your risks: Some psychotropics can cause drowsiness, dizziness and confusion, which can lead to falls and extreme lethargy. Some antipsychotics can cause tardive dyskinesia, or repetitive movements such as rocking, tics, tremors and chewing. These movements can become permanent.

To complain: Contact the nursing home's administrator or nursing director. If problems persist, call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-252-4343.

SOURCE: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Illinois Citizens for Better Care