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Chemical restraints: Nursing home abuse of the most vulnerable

| Jul 29, 2020 | Long-term Care Facility Neglect

If your parent suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and consequently resides in a nursing home, you need to know about chemical restraints. This form of nursing home abuse occurs when your parent’s caregivers illegally dose him with one or more antipsychotic drugs for no other reason than to control his or her behavior and make him or her easier to manage. 

A recent nationwide Human Rights Watch survey revealed the distressing fact that up to 30% of the nation’s nursing homes engage in this illegal, but commonplace, practice. Their prescription drugs of choice include the following: 

  • Haloperidol 
  • Seroquel 
  • Risperidone 

Most vulnerable patients

Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients often become agitated and uncooperative. If your parent exhibits these types of behavior, (s)he faces a higher risk of becoming chemically restrained through drug administration. Since (s)he has a diminished capacity to know or tell you what goes on around him or her, (s)he may well not know that his or her supposed caregivers are illegally medicating him or her 

Keep in mind that the HRW survey found that no doctor ever prescribes the antipsychotic drugs for the Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients on whom the nursing homes most often use them. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration specifically prohibits their use in such elderly patients because they could cause death. 

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

While the CMMC has the mandate of enforcing the provisions of the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, it has been lax when it comes to illegal drug administration in nursing homes. As an example, it cited only 7,029 nursing homes for such abuse during a recent 4-year period. In addition, although the NHRA provides for mandatory fines for this form of abuse, the CMMC failed to demand payment of fines from a full 97% of the nursing homes so cited. Why? Because the CMMC determined that these patients suffered “no actual harm” from the illegal dosing.