For anyone in Carlsbad who has an elderly loved one residing in a nearby nursing home, it can be difficult to learn about risks related to certain types of medications. In some situations, however, the use of certain drugs in nursing homes may significantly increase a senior’s risk for pneumonia. In particular, patients with Alzheimer’s disease may be particularly susceptible. While we often hear about the dangers of over-medication and the off-label use of antipsychotic drugs, discussed relatively recently in a story by NPR, it is not as common for us to hear about prescription sedatives and pneumonia risks among patients with dementia. According to a recent article in Medical News Today, new research suggests that patients with dementia may be at greater risk for developing pneumonia, especially when they are prescribed sedatives such as benzodiazepines.
If a dementia patient on certain prescription medications develops pneumonia, could it be a result of nursing home neglect?
Nursing Home Prescriptions and Elder Neglect
When an Alzheimer’s patient in a nursing home is taking prescription medications that could make it easier to develop pneumonia, what additional duties does the facility have when it comes to the patient’s care? In other words, if the nursing home staff knows that the patient could be at greater risk of developing pneumonia, could the failure to monitor patients for the infection rise to the level of nursing home neglect? As a fact sheet from the American Thoracic Society explains, older adults not only are at greater risk of getting pneumonia, but they are also at a higher risk of dying from the infection.
As the article points out, studies already have suggested that patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia (Alzheimer’s account for between 60 to 70% of all known dementia cases) may be at greater risk for “pneumonia and pneumonia-related death.” As such, it is extremely important for nursing home physicians, nurses, and other staff members to closely monitor dementia patients for signs of pneumonia and to take steps to prevent further complications. That duty may increase, the article intimates, when those same patients also are taking specific types of prescription drugs. How drastically does that risk increase when dementia patients are also taking certain sedatives?
Is There a Connection Between Benzodiazepines and Pneumonia Among the Elderly?
As the article reports, a recent study looked at nearly 50,000 patients who currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Of those patients, the researchers determined that 5,232 were taking benzodiazepines, while an additional 3,269 were taking Z-drugs, which are not benzodiazepines but “have a similar effect.”
In Alzheimer’s patients taking benzodiazepines, the researchers determined that those patients were “30% more likely to develop pneumonia,” and that the risk of getting pneumonia is “greatest during the first 30 days of the treatment.” As such, the authors of the study emphasize that the “benefits and risks of the use of benzodiazepines should be carefully considered for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and include risk of pneumonia.”
While more studies need to be conducted to make clear what the association might be, with certainty, among pneumonia, benzodiazepine use, and Alzheimer’s disease, the study highlights the need for careful monitoring of seniors with dementia for signs and symptoms of pneumonia.
Contact a Carlsbad Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
If you have questions about filing an elder neglect lawsuit, you should discuss your case with an experienced Carlsbad nursing home abuse attorney as soon as you can. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to speak with an advocate.
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(image courtesy of Ian Schneider)