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Chemical restraint is more convenient for nursing home staff

If you have an elderly parent in a nursing home, you may take for granted that the staff looks out for your loved one's best interests and well-being. This may be especially important to you if your parent's progressing Alzheimer's is the primary reason why you chose that facility in the first place. You may know first-hand how important it is that the nursing staff carefully monitor your parent for his or her own safety.

People with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia often exhibit behaviors that can be frustrating. They may tend to wander, to wake at odd hours of the night or to behave aggressively. While there are certainly ways to deal with these behaviors that do not place your loved one in danger, many nursing homes resort to drastic and potentially deadly methods to calm agitated dementia patients.

Antipsychotic drugs used to restrain the elderly

It may come as a shock to you to learn that Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, an advocacy group for mental health issues, estimates that nursing homes across the country may dose over 270,000 nursing home residents with antipsychotic drugs as a way to deal with behaviors associated with dementia. The Food and Drug Administration does not approve drugs such as quetiapine fumarate, risperidone and olanzapine for chemical restraint and has warned that these medicines can be dangerous for people with dementia.

Nevertheless, the Massachusetts nursing home where your loved one resides may be one of the many facilities that continues to bill Medicare for use of the drugs, and 88 percent of the time, staff members in these homes use those drugs for off-label conditions related to dementia. The use of these antipsychotic drugs in the elderly may cause serious side effects, including:

  • Anxiety or tremors
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Higher risk of falling
  • Violent behavior
  • Kidney failure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack

Antipsychotic drugs reportedly kill 15,000 nursing home residents each year, according to the FDA, merely because it may be more convenient for the staff to keep them drugged. It is certainly difficult to face the possibility that the people you entrusted to care for your parent at such a vulnerable stage of life may be treating your loved one with neglect or even abuse.

Nevertheless, you certainly want to ensure your parent receives quality medical treatment and that those responsible for any suffering or injury are held accountable. Because there is a limited amount of time to take legal action in cases of medical neglect or malpractice, seeking guidance as soon as possible may be in the best interests of your loved one.

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