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Nursing Home Residents Test Positive for Unexplained Opiates

An article about trouble at a nursing home in North Carolina caught the eye of our Pennsylvania nursing home negligence attorneys. The Times-News of Burlington, N.C. reported Feb. 18 that opiates were found in the blood of several residents of The Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home, even though none had been prescribed an opiate drug. State officials planned to investigate. The home’s parent company is also running its own investigation, and Chapel Hill police have already investigated and determined that no crime was committed.

The case started when a blood test for one resident in the Alzheimer’s unit found opiates, despite no prescription for such a drug. (Several kinds of prescription painkillers contain opiates.) The news concerned the nursing home’s staff, some of whom thought other patients in the Alzheimer’s unit seemed sluggish. Testing turned up opiates in at least two other patients, who were admitted to a hospital. The first resident died of a case of pneumonia that the home’s spokesperson said was unrelated. The head of the state’s Division of Health Service Regulation said the incident was confusing, especially because no drugs were missing or misplaced at the home. However, he said, some antibiotics can create a false positive for opiates.

The nursing home was already getting extra inspections because of its poor record of care. Inspections in 2008 and 2009 found that certified nursing assistants didn’t have enough time per patient to meet state standards. In November, the home also paid a fine for a water-temperature violation that investigators said could have led to an accident for a resident.

As Philadelphia nursing home abuse lawyers, we are surprised the police finished their investigation before the state started its own. If antibiotics are the culprit, it should be fairly easy to determine whether any of the residents who tested positive were taking such a drug. If that’s not the case, state investigators — and residents’ families — should look carefully for evidence of wrongdoing at the home. Alzheimer’s patients can be difficult, and at some homes, this has led to misuse of sedative and antipsychotic drugs to control behavior. Opiates can have sedative effects, but they can also cause patients’ breathing to slow and stop, putting their lives in danger. It also causes withdrawal when patients quit abruptly. Any evidence that opiates were misused at the home should cause swift and permanent changes to protect residents.

If you believe someone you love was over-medicated, abused, neglected or otherwise mistreated at a nursing home, Rosenbaum & Associates can help. To set up a free, confidential evaluation of your case, please contact us through the Internet or call 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 today.

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