Researchers with the advocate group Human Rights Watch interviewed 323 people and visited 109 nursing homes in six U.S. states between October 2016 and March 2017. The goal was to discuss the overuse and misuse of antipsychotic drugs given to dementia patients in their care. Those states included California, Florida, Kansas, New York, Texas and several facilities right here in Illinois. The interviews were conducted with nursing home residents, caregivers, and staff, ombudsmen, advocacy organizations, and disability experts.
The group used information collected in those interviews as well as federal data to estimate the percentage of dementia patients who are inappropriately given drugs in order to restrain them. The nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin & Perconti found these conclusions to be more than alarming. According to the 157-page report, titled, They Want Docile:
- Each week, approximately 179,000 nursing home residents with dementia are inappropriately medicated and categorized as being chemically restrained.
- Antipsychotic drugs are being prescribed because of their sedating effects, making dementia patients easier for staff to handle.
- These drugs are commonly not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and often prescribed without the consent of residents or their caregivers.
- In one interview, a staff member said a common reason for medicating residents was to get them to stop crying for help.
Dementia is a sensitive collection of diagnoses and syndromes, including Alzheimer’s, frontotemporal dementia, and other conditions. The disease requires 24-hour care in its end stages. Many people think of dementia as a memory loss disease, but a person may also lose their ability to communicate so loved ones may not be fully aware of the quality of care they receive.
Antipsychotic Drugs Have Many Risks
The FDA has said many antipsychotics can double an older dementia patients’ risk of death. These drugs were developed to treat psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia not dementia. Antipsychotics can also cause serious side effects such as diabetes or blood clots and stroke. Yet a 2012 federal government report found that a third of dementia patients who are living in nursing homes are likely to be prescribed antipsychotics.
Unfortunately, there are limited guidelines or laws that protect vulnerable residents from chemical restraint. Some nursing home staff will justify using antipsychotic drugs on people with dementia because they interpret confusion, pain or distress as disruptive behaviors that needs to be suppressed. In some cases, these practices could count as elder abuse.
In addition, AARP reports support these claims as Illinois was recently ranked poorly for the percent of long-stay nursing home residents who are receiving an antipsychotic medication. The state earned a lackluster ranking of 48 (out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia) in this care category from the aging advocate group.
Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys
Our Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Levin & Perconti have handled numerous cases in which loved ones have been chemically restrained for no purpose or benefit to the patient. If you have a family member that has been restrained or sedated with the use of drugs and sustained an injury, illness or death, please contact our Chicago nursing home attorneys to discuss your situation and let us help you. Consultations are free and confidential.
See Related Post:
Psychotropic Drugs Frequently Misused in Nursing Facilities