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Sep 11, 2021 by |

Santa Cruz County and California Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys: Overmedication Of Dementia Residents In Nursing Homes


All Nursing Home Residents At Risk 

Use of Antipsychotics Widespread

Chemical Restraint Is A Form Of Elder Abuse

Thousands of patients with dementia in nursing facilities are being overmedicated with psychotropic drugs, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The nonprofit found that the drugs are often given to residents who don’t have the diagnoses for which the drugs were approved, and without informed consent from patients or family members.  According to the report, “They Want Docile,” the drugs are used primarily for their “sedative effect” to control behavior, despite laws against such “chemical restraints.” Almost 300,000 nursing home residents are currently receiving antipsychotic drugs, usually to suppress the anxiety or aggression that can go with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. Antipsychotics, however, are approved mainly to treat serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. When it comes to dementia patients, the drugs have a black box warning, saying that they can increase the risk for heart failure, infections and death. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that roughly 15,000 nursing home resident deaths each year result from unnecessary anti-psychotic use. If you have a loved one who has suffered injury due to overmedication in a nursing home here in Santa Cruz County or elsewhere in California, Evans Law Firm, Inc. can represent you in recovering against those responsible. If you suspect your loved one died of overmedication you should immediately request a toxicology and autopsy by the Coroner’s office and tell them about your suspicions of elder abuse by overmedication.  Call us today at 415-441-8669 (or toll free at 1-888-50EVANS), and we can help.

Dangers of Overmedication And Chemical Restraints

California law prohibits the use of antipsychotics and other psychoactive drugs for the convenience of staff. It’s called a “chemical restraint” and is defined under California law as follows:

(2) “Chemical restraint” means a drug that is used to control behavior and that is used in a manner not required to treat the patient’s medical conditions.

Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 4436.5(a)(2). Further under the California Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, “physical abuse” of an elder or dependent adult is defined to include the use of a chemical restraint “[f]or any purpose not authorized by the physician and surgeon.  Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.63. Thus, it is illegal for nursing homes to administer chemical restraint to residents unless they are used to treat medical conditions or prevent residents from causing physical harm to themselves or other individuals. If you have a loved one who is a victim of overmedication or chemical restraint in a nursing home, you have legal recourse against those responsible for the elder abuse of your loved one.  Repeating the advice from above:  If you suspect your loved one died of overmedication you should immediately request a toxicology and autopsy by the Coroner’s office and tell them about your suspicions of elder abuse by overmedication.  

Spotting Abuse

Watch for signs of overmedication and other possible abuse or neglect of nursing home residents:

  • Continual drowsiness
  • Slowed or slurred speech
  • Bedsores/pressure ulcers or other poor skin conditions;
  • Indication of rape, sexual assault, or battery;
  • Bruises and scratch marks;
  • Frequent infections;
  • Falls;
  • Injuries from wandering off unsupervised (known as elopement);
  • Lack of equipment and supplies;
  • Rapid weight loss;
  • Dehydration;
  • Abnormal or withdrawn behavior and unusual silence;
  • Agitation especially when certain caregivers are present or caregivers who do not want the patient to be alone with others;
  • Reluctance to speak when staff is nearby;
  • Unsanitary and unclean conditions, soiled bed linens and clothes;
  • Fear of being touched.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one is or has been the victim of overmedication, chemical restraint, abuse or neglect from a caregiver or while residing in a nursing home or other care facility in Santa Cruz County or elsewhere in California, contact Ingrid M. Evans at (415) 441-8669 (or toll free at 1-888-50EVANS), or by email at <ahref=””></a>.

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