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Seniors and Their Right to Informed Consent

Nursing homes are the perfect option for many families with older loved ones who cannot live on their own. Such facilities can offer companionship, independence when possible and most importantly, constant, on-site medical care. This last feature is especially crucial for senior citizens who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s or another debilitating disease and those who require medications and treatments on a regular basis. In these cases, nursing home staff members can provide the kind of one-on-one specialized care the residents need that their family members may not be able to correctly or adequately provide.

However, an increasing number of senior citizens who suffer from mental illnesses are being given improper medications or being medicated without their consent. In many cases, the residents and their loved ones may not know that abuse is taking place and may never have been given a full overview of treatment options and available medications.

Anti-Psychotics

Certain anti-psychotic drugs have been approved for the treatment of mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and others. But when these drugs are used to reduce aggression and anxiety for residents in the nursing home suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, they can cause serious medical complications such as heart failure or even death. Some doses of anti-psychotics can sedate a resident so that he or she can no longer move or his or her movement may be seriously impeded or compromised, risking falls, broken bones and injury. Sedation can also cause changes in personality and stop a resident from communicating effectively.

Anti-psychotics are typically used in nursing homes by overworked staff members and nurses who are seeking the fastest, easiest way to keep more difficult residents calm. These drugs may be administered without thorough explanation to the residents or their families. A doctor may simply say that he has prescribed something to help with anxiety, but he may not go into the risks and side effects associated with using anti-psychotic drugs.

Informed Consent

Informed consent is a key right for anyone who is receiving medical treatment, including senior citizens in nursing homes. If a nursing home resident does not have the capacity to provide informed consent due to decreased mental faculties or another medical condition, his or her power of attorney should be given the opportunity to make medical decisions on the resident’s behalf.

Because many of these situations involve patients who cannot advocate for themselves, improper medication and dosage often goes unnoticed until it is too late. Family members and friends should be aware of the potential for over or under medication, especially if their loved ones suffer from any form of dementia. They should also be on the lookout for signs of abuse and be fully involved in medical decisions by asking questions and obtaining evidence of proper medication.

At the Evans Law Firm, Inc., our nursing home abuse lawyers represent clients in the San Francisco Bay area who have been victims of abuse or neglect in a nursing home. To discuss your case, contact our office at 415.441.8669 or www.evanslaw.com today.

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