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Is the nursing home chemically restraining your parent?

If you had to move your parent to a Montana nursing home due to his or her age or deteriorating physical or mental condition, you undoubtedly worry about the quality of care (s)he receives there. Unfortunately, you may have just cause for your concerns.

Human Rights Watch recently investigated 15,000 nursing homes across the country, and the results are shocking. HRW discovered that in far too many instances, nursing homes routinely administer antipsychotic drugs, including Haloperidol, Seroquel and Risperidone, to patients whose physicians have neither prescribed such drugs nor diagnosed them with an illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, that requires such drugs. Instead, the nursing homes give these drugs to patients suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, etc. Why? So they can control these patients’ often uncooperative and combative behaviors.

In some nursing homes, the percentage of patients receiving unprescribed antipsychotic drugs rose to 30 percent. Staff freely admitted that although the patients had no medical need for these drugs, dosing them with them made them easier to care for. Elder rights advocates call this practice chemical restraints and have listed it as yet another form of elder abuse.

Lax oversight

Do not rely on the protections afforded your parent by the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency charged with enforcing the NHRA’s rules and regulations, has a history of lax oversight, particularly regarding the giving of unprescribed antipsychotic drugs. In the three years between 2014 and 2017, the CMMS gave out only 7,039 citations for improper nursing home drug administration. Of these, it collected barely three percent of the supposed mandatory fines, explaining that in the other 97 percent, the patients who received the drugs sustained “no actual harm.”

You also need to know that the Federal Drug Administration bans antipsychotic drug usage for patients suffering from diseases and conditions that contraindicate them. In addition, the FDA requires that nursing homes closely monitor all their patients who receive such drugs. The CMMS’s response? It announced a moratorium on these rules and regulations in 2016.

If your parent suffers from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or another condition that negatively affects his or her cognitive abilities, you know that (s)he often can be unaware of what goes on around him or her. This puts you in the unfortunate position of having to be his or her constantly vigilant advocate. Make sure you know what drugs your parent receives. Also, do not be afraid to ask your parent’s doctor and nursing home caregivers, up to and including the facility’s administrator, exactly why your parent receives the drugs (s)he does.

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

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