The examples of nursing home abuse and negligence that typically attract the most attention are dramatic stories of poor care that shock the senses. From negligently trapping residents inside cafeteria freezers to allowing ghastly sexual assaults, these major incidents deservedly send ripples of outrage throughout the community.
Yet there also exists more persistent negligence that does not culminate in a single incident but also has debilitating effects on a nursing home resident’s quality of life. A common example of that form of abuse is chemical restraints-the daily dose of drugs given to residents that put them in a perpetual stupor. It makes it easier for nursing home staff to monitor the resident but drastically limits the individual’s ability to enjoy their life.
The Star Tribune reported on recent attempts to end the overuse of drugs to control residents. The story explains how many residents are constantly lethargic with little interest in interacting with their surroundings. One nurse explained, “You see that in just about any nursing home. But that kind of quality of life is that?”
To help fight the problem the nurse began a program that is replacing drugs with alternatives, including aromatherapy, massages, exercise, and other activities involving giving personal attention to the resident. The results have been impressive. Antipsychotic drugs have been completed eliminated from rotations and antidepressants are now used only half as much as the facility.
Not only is the program working to improve the lives of residents, it is also eliminating the risk posed by overuse of drugs. Many drugs are used “off label” or for reasons other than their intended use. Instead of treating symptoms, the drugs are used to cover up other symptoms. It is a dangerous cycle that claims far too many lives.