A California nursing director at a Kern County hospital was sentenced to three years in prison for drugging elderly patients with potent and medically unnecessary anti-psychotic medication to make them easier to control. According to the California Attorney General, the nursing director convinced others to prescribe the drugs to the noisier and more argumentative patients, so that she could keep them quiet and more manageable. The unnecessary drugs killed three patients and many more suffered serious complications.
An attorney and spokesperson for the Center for Medicare Advocacy commented on the case, declaring that the overuse of anti-psychotic drugs in California nursing homes is “a serious problem”. In November 2011, he testified at a U.S. Senate hearing, claiming that 83 percent of Medicare claims for drugs for seniors are for off-label uses – that is, for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Antipsychotic drugs are commonly used to sedate and control residents, especially those patients with dementia. In fact, according to the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, every day one in four nursing home residents is given a form of antipsychotic medication.
Antipsychotic drugs have many serious side effects including agitation, confusion, disorientation and even death. Death is more likely when the drugs are administered to patients with dementia.
In response to the increased use of anti-psychotic drugs to control nursing home patients and the devastating and sometimes fatal affects the drugs have on elderly patients, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services commenced a campaign to stop, or at least reduce, the use of anti-psychotic drugs in nursing homes.
Nursing home residents’ rights
Nursing home residents have the right to be free from restraints. Drugging residents so that they are easier to manage is a type of chemical restraint. A chemical restraint is any drug that is used for discipline or convenience; rather than to treat medical symptoms.
The only time a chemical restraint can be used without consent is for a limited time in cases of emergency. An emergency exists when the resident is in danger of hurting him or herself or others. The nursing home does not have the right to restrain patients physically or chemically without consent from the patient, or his or her representative.
Protecting your l oved ones
If you have noticed a change in your loved one’s behavior or appearance and are concerned about the care they are receiving in a nursing home, contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney. Knowledge is the first step in protecting the ones you love from elder abuse.