The Illinois elder abuse attorneys at our firm have seemingly seen every form of mistreatment of the elderly. From senior financial exploitation and nursing home falls to physical and sexual abuse, it seems that not a day goes by without news breaking of another innocent, vulnerable victim. However, while many of the same types of misconduct arise again and again, it is important not to forget the very real, individual faces behind each and every one of of these misdeeds. Every nursing home resident has a slightly different story about what brought them to their facility, what led to their abuse, and how it has affected them.
It is only when observers understand the actual individual lives behind each case of nursing home mistreatment that the true damage done can be understood. For example, late last month the OC Register discussed a new nursing home abuse lawsuit filed by a retired preschool teacher. The 68-year old teacher was forced to live in a retirement home after suffering medical setbacks and needing close care. The victim suffered from diabetes, and shortly before her arrival at the nursing home she collapsed at her home and spent ten days in the hospital. However, she got much more than she bargained for when she finally arrived at the facility, where she lived for three months.
According to documents filed in the lawsuit, the woman claims that the facility forcible medicated her with psychotropic drugs. This “chemical restraint” occurred without her knowledge or consent. The court papers explain that staff members at the home told the woman that she suffered from a “cognitive impairment” after medicating her to the point of disorientation. The facility then attempted to collect the woman’s Social Security funds. It was only after a friend of the woman intervened that the medication stopped. She slowly returned to her normal self, and she was transferred to a different nursing home where she currently lives.
The woman’s attorney explained that a state investigation was conducted following the mistreatment. In a report issued following that investigation the officials found that the woman had been improperly medicated. State code specifically forbids use of these dangerous drugs for “patient discipline or staff convenience.” As a result the state demanded that the nursing home officials submit a corrective plan to ensure that the mistake is not repeated with other patients.
In fact, the facility’s own policy states that these drugs should not be used with patients if their only symptom is anxiety. Yet, there appears to be a difference between having a policy in place and actually abiding by that policy. In this case, the victim’s doctor specifically ordered that she stop being given the drug, which is intended to treat dementia. But the medicating continued after that stop order was given.
Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers are well aware of the widespread problem of antipsychotic drug use in nursing homes. The total number of residents who receive these drugs is shocking, and in most cases they are for “off label” uses. Not only does this overmedication severely diminish the resident’s quality of life, but it also may be dangerous. These drugging practices must be rooted out whenever they are found with the violating facilities held responsible for their misconduct.
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