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Is the nursing home chemically restraining your parent?

If you are one of the many adult children who have had to make the difficult decision to place your parent in a California nursing home, you likely have concerns about the care (s)he receives there. Is it adequate? Is it competent? Is it compassionate?

Unfortunately, although most nursing homes provide good care, some do not. In fact, according to the results of a 2018 Human Rights Watch study, upwards of 30% of nursing homes nationwide routinely chemically restrain their patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. They do this for no other reason than to control these patients who often exhibit uncooperative and/or obstreperous behaviors.

Nature of chemical restraints

Nursing homes that engage in illegal chemical restraint practices do so by dosing their patients with antipsychotic drugs such as the following:

  • Risperidone
  • Seroquel
  • Haloperidol

No physician ever prescribes any of these drugs for Alzheimer’s or dementia patients. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration specifically bans their use in such patients. The guilty nursing homes nevertheless continue to use them for control and restraint purposes only.

CMMS failure

As you may already know, the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act sets forth numerous rules and regulations by which nursing homes must operate. It also designates the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as the oversight agency. But this agency has a poor history of doing its job. For instance, during a recent four-year period, the CMMS cited only 7,029 nursing homes nationwide for illegal drug administration. Further, the CMMS forced only 3% of these nursing homes to pay what is supposed to be a mandatory fine for such violations.

These distressing findings of widespread nursing home abuse put you in the unenviable position of being your parent’s watchdog, especially if (s)he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Make sure you speak directly with his or her physician so you know exactly what drugs (s)he receives and why.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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