Last year there was a big push to raise awareness of the improper use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes. Use of these substances in order to control residents is often referred to as “chemical restraints.” Each Illinois nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm has joined the call of elder care advocates to put an end to the overuse of these drugs. As we have often pointed out, the harm is twofold. For one, residents given antipsychotics are often unnecessarily put in a state that limits their ability to interact with the world around them in meaningful ways. In addition, certain seniors-particularly those with dementia-face serious risk of harm when given the drugs. Use of antipsychotics among this group has been known to offer an increased risk of death.
This week New America Media published the second part in a series of reports on elder are. The story provides a great overview of this continuing problem. Though attention was brought to the issue last year-including being discussed in November Congressional hearings-the chemical restraint problems remain. It is clear that the issue will not be solved with a single burst of advocacy but instead will require prolonged pressure being placed on those who provide care to seniors.
This latest article shares the story of three residents who died at the same long-term care facility in the same year as a result of their being given antipsychotic drugs. Each of the residents had dementia, and they were given the medication even though the drugs came with a black box warning indicating the increased risk of death when given to dementia patients. Blatant disregard of these warnings leading to patient harm is a clear indicator of nursing home neglect. As evidence came to light about the care provided at this facility it was eventually learned that almost two dozen had received very high doses of the medication-including others with dementia and Alzheimer’s. In one case a resident who did not want the drug was forcibly held down and injected with the antipsychotic. In the wake of that scandal the families of the victims have filed nursing home abuse lawsuits and the caregivers involved are facing criminal charges.
One would hope that this sort of blatant misuse of chemical restraints was an isolated event. It isn’t. Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers are well aware that the use of these drugs inappropriately occurs everywhere, including in our own communities. In more cases than not the mistreatment goes without recourse and criminal prosecutions for the conduct are virtually unheard of. The Center for Medicare Advocacy has reported that about 14% of all seniors in nursing homes receive antipsychotic drugs. These drugs costs hundreds of millions of dollars-a bill usually footed by the taxpayers. Of that group, perhaps as much as 88% of the prescriptions are given to residents for conditions that are known to cause potential harm for the senior.
This blatant misuse of chemical restraints can worsen the quality of life of seniors, costs taxpayers millions, and risk the lives of thousands of residents. It should not be tolerated.
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