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Is your parent being chemically restrained?

If you became forced to place your parent in a New York nursing home because of his or her age, chronic illness or deteriorating condition, you likely worry about the care (s)he receives there. Unfortunately, you have good reason for your concern. The results of a recent investigation show that many nursing homes engage in illegal chemical restraint practices.

Human Rights Watch conducted the investigation of some 1500 nursing homes nationwide, and the results were shocking. Approximately 30% of them abused their dementia and Alzheimer’s disease patients by dosing them with antipsychotic drugs that no doctor had prescribed for them. The most frequently used drugs consisted of the following:

  1. Haloperidol
  2. Risperidone
  3. Seroquel

Chemical restraints

Staff from many of the nursing homes engaged in this practice admitted that their purpose in using these drugs on patients was to make them less obstreperous and combative and easier to handle and control. Rather than physically restraining these patients, the nursing homes instead chose to illegally medicate them, thus resulting in elder rights advocates naming this practice chemical restraint.

Bear in mind that virtually none of the patients involved, nor their families, knew about the illegal dosing. No doctor had prescribed the drugs, mainly because antipsychotic drugs such as these are contraindicated for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia.

Failure of governmental oversight

You may already know that the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 sets forth a number of protections for nursing home residents. What you likely do not know, however, is that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency tasked with enforcing NHRA rules and prohibitions, has failed and continues to fail to do its duty.

For instance, the CMMS placed a moratorium on the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on treating Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients with antipsychotic drugs. In addition, it issued only 7,029 unauthorized nursing home drug usage citations during a recent four-year period. Furthermore, it refused to collect the mandatory fines for these violations in 97% of the cases, claiming that the unfortunate patients so dosed suffered “no actual harm.”

If your parent resides in a nursing home, it goes without saying that you must be his or her watchdog when it comes to the medications (s)he receives. Do not hesitate to insist on speaking to his or her physician and the nursing home staff to fully inform yourself on the medications your parent takes and why (s)he takes them. If no one answers your questions adequately, you may wish to consult an elder rights attorney.

You should not interpret this information as legal advice, but it can help you understand nursing home chemical restraint practices.

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