How Does Substance Abuse Affect Nursing Home Patients?

Published on May 14, 2020 at 7:24 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

Elderly person holding another elderly person's arm

Nursing home residents are considered to be a vulnerable population. This is because they generally need to rely on nursing home staff to provide them with food, medicine, and daily necessities. When this doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, legal action may be available on the grounds of abuse or neglect.

If you believe your loved one has wrongfully suffered, you’ll likely want to understand the circumstances that led to their harm. In some instances, substance abuse may be a factor—whether staff members abuse drugs while working with residents or a resident’s substance abuse disorder was managed improperly. Let’s take a look at how substance abuse affects nursing home patients and what can be done to limit drug and alcohol abuse in long-term care facilities.

Nursing Home Staff Drug Use

Being given the task of providing medical and housing care for nursing home residents can be challenging—especially when understaffing and burnout are issues. It’s the responsibility of a nursing home’s management to ensure staff members have access to the resources and time they need to provide residents with the proper level of care. When employees are overworked, they may turn to substances to deal with the stress.

When a nursing home staff member tries to cope with their job by abusing drugs or alcohol, they’re likely to make mistakes and cause harm to patients. They may administer medication improperly or forget to check on residents.

When a facility learns that a staff member has a substance abuse problem that’s affecting their work and ability to care for residents, they should be removed from the position. If a facility fails to do so, the consequences could be severe or even deadly.

Nursing Home Residents and Substance Abuse

Many older adults struggle with lifelong addictions or become addicted to prescription drugs they take to cope with physical or psychological pain. Because of the use of powerful pain medications, substance abuse issues have the ability to penetrate nursing homes.

Nursing home residents are often on a complex list of medications to treat a variety of conditions. Depending on those medications, there could be the risk of addiction. If a resident’s medication isn’t monitored or administered properly, they could experience more harm than good. A number of substance abuse problems arise within residents because facility administrators and staff are not knowledgeable about the issue.

Another issue that arises when potential nursing home residents being turned away because of substance abuse issues. When older patients are discharged from the hospital, many require further nursing care. While some only need a short course of intravenous antibiotics, others may require longer stays for rehabilitation purposes.

Unfortunately, a number of nursing homes have a history of turning patients away for post-hospital care if they are taking medicine to treat opioid addiction. Facilities turn patients away because of stigma, gaps in staff training, and the widespread misconception that medication is not useful for treating addiction. This practice, however, is illegal and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Combating Substance Abuse in Nursing Homes

When it comes to dealing with substance abuse in nursing homes, it’s important to have access to the proper education. When a facility educates its staff members about the issue, it’s less likely employees will abuse substances and more likely they will be able to determine when a resident is dealing with substance abuse.

In addition to providing resources to staff members about substance abuse, residents and their families should also be educated. Important information regarding substance abuse can be accessed through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Nursing homes should also perform drug screenings prior to hiring. Any applicant who uses drugs presents a serious risk of continuing to use drugs while working at the nursing home.

Protect Your Loved One with Prince Law Firm 

If you believe your loved one has been abused or neglected in their nursing home, Prince Law Firm can guide you through the legal process to take action against the facility. Nursing homes are supposed to ensure their residents have the ability to live a high-quality life and have access to proper care to ensure their physical, mental, and social wellbeing. When a facility fails to provide the level of care, a personal injury claim may be the only way to get your message across.

Not only will a nursing home abuse claim remind the facility of their responsibilities and discourage them from treating other residents in a similar manner, but it will also ensure your loved one has access to the compensation they need to recover. To learn more about the claims process contact us today.



Want to speak to an attorney? Unsure if you have a case? Fill out the form below and we’ll reach out to you as quickly as possible.