- One in nine nursing home residents across the country have received a schizophrenia diagnosis.
- At least 21% of residents are on antipsychotic drugs, The New York Times reported.
- The Times found that the diagnosis is given so residents can get those drugs to help facilities handle them.
At least 21% of nursing home residents across the country have been prescribed antipsychotic drugs, with one in nine residents being diagnosed with schizophrenia, The New York Times reported.
Many of the diagnoses appear to be efforts to give residents sedative drugs such as Haldol, so understaffed facilities can better handle them, even when there is no evidence a patient has schizophrenia, the Times analysis found.
The diagnosis is given to treat residents for symptoms like restlessness and agitation.
Since 2012, there’s been a 70% rise in the number of nursing home residents being diagnosed with the disorder.
In the US, schizophrenia is prevalent in 0.25% and 0.64% of the population.
The disorder, which presents psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder, is usually diagnosed when someone is in their late teen to early thirties, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
“People don’t just wake up with schizophrenia when they are elderly,” Dr. Michael Wasserman, a geriatrician and former nursing home executive who has become a critic of the industry told the Times. “It’s used to skirt the rules.”
The Medicare website, which tracks the use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes, found that about 15% of residents are on these drugs, but the Times analysis found that those statistics don’t account for residents with a schizophrenia diagnosis. That means the true number of people on antipsychotic drugs is much higher.
Facilities do not have to report residents using antipsychotic drugs to the government if those residents are being given the drug to treat schizophrenia, the Times reported.
A May report from the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General found that about a third of nursing home residents who got a schizophrenia diagnosis in 2018 had no Medicare record of being treated for it.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not respond to Insider’s request for comment at the time of publication but spokesperson Catherine Howden told the Times the agency was “concerned about this practice as a way to circumvent the protections these regulations afford.”