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The Use of Chemical Restraints in Nursing Homes

There is an ongoing growth of nursing home care occurring in the United States. As baby boomers reach old age, the number of people living in nursing care facilities is expected to increase. With this increase comes a concern about the level of care that is being provided to residents in these facilities. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect is already a common occurrence. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 50% of nursing home staff admitted to mistreatment of residents. There are many ways that the elderly may be abused or neglected. Sometimes nursing homes utilize chemical restraints to assist in providing care to residents. The use of medicine to restrain the elderly is considered abusive.

What are Chemical Restraints?
A chemical restraint is the use of a drug to sedate or control someone, often a person living in a nursing home facility. A chemical restraint is any medication that is used in a way that is not intended. There are no medications approved by the FDA for use as chemical restraints. Most often a resident’s own medication is utilized as a restraint, sometimes by administering a higher than normal dosage. Some common drugs that may be used to restrain patients include antipsychotics and benzodiazepines. Any medication that the resident is already prescribed may have sedating effects when too much is taken.

Chemical Restraint Use
The use of chemical and physical restraints in the care of the elderly has been reviewed for many years. According to a federal mandate, one of the rights of a nursing home resident is to be free from chemical or physical restraints. This applies to all residents unless the chemical is required to treat symptoms and ordered by a physician. The mandate is designed to protect the elderly and offer a guideline to be used by care facilities across the country.

Medication Approval in Nursing Homes
Only medications prescribed by the resident’s physician should be administered in a nursing home. Staff must properly maintain and administer medications to ensure that they are being properly used. Over medication can lead to medical problems and an overdose can be fatal. Patients who are suffering from some diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, may be more prone to disruptions. These patients need to take their medication as prescribed by their doctor, which will usually prevent problematic behavior. Difficult patients should be examined by their doctor to receive proper diagnosis and treatment. It is never permissible to administer drugs to patients for the sole purpose of restraining them. Those who are over-medicated may be lethargic, groggy, or even unable to communicate. These symptoms may signal a problem with medication dosage.

Chemical Restraints and Nursing Home Abuse
When chemical restraints are used to control patients it is considered nursing home abuse. If your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse through the use of chemical restraints it is necessary to take action. This is considered criminal activity. Report the suspected problem immediately and then consult with a qualified attorney. Your loved one should not suffer from abuse at the hands of a caregiver. Contact the experienced legal professionals at Levin & Perconti to discuss your case.

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