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Is the nursing home chemically restraining your parent?

If you are one of the many people who has had to make the painful decision to place your elderly parent in a Pennsylvania nursing home, you likely make it a point to visit him or her as often as possible. You also likely have continuing concerns about the level of care (s)he receives, even though you carefully checked out the nursing homes in your area before choosing this particular one.

While most nursing homes do, in fact, take reasonably good care of their patients, some do not. That is what makes the results of a recent Human Rights Watch investigation of 15,000 nursing homes across the country so disturbing. This investigation found that many nursing homes routinely medicate their dementia and Alzheimer’s disease patients with antipsychotic drugs such as Haloperidol, Seroquel and Risperidone for no other reason or purpose than to control them and make their often obstreperous behaviors easier to manage. Elder rights activists call this chemical restraint, an illegal and abusive nursing home practice.

Bear in mind that no patient, in a nursing home or otherwise, should receive these antipsychotic drugs unless and until a physician has diagnosed him or her with a disease or medical condition that calls for their usage. In the case of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, antipsychotic drugs actually are contra-indicated.

Lax governmental oversight

You may be aware that the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 provides nursing home residents with many protections against various forms of nursing home abuse. Nevertheless, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which enforces the NHRA’s provisions, has failed and continues to fail to do a proper job. For instance, in the three-year period between 2014 and 2017, the CMMS issued only 7,029 citations nationwide to nursing homes that dosed their patients with unauthorized drugs. Worse yet, the CMMS collected only 3 percent of the supposedly mandatory fines for this practice. The reason? The CMMS decided that the other 97 percent of the patients so dosed suffered “no actual harm.”

In addition, although the Federal Drug Administration oversees all prescription drugs and prohibits the use of antipsychotic drugs in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, the CMMS decided several years to place a moratorium on these FDA prohibitions.

All of this puts you in the unfortunate position of needing to know which drugs your parent receives and why (s)he receives them, especially if his or her age and/or condition precludes him or her from understanding the medications and why the nursing home gives them to him or her.

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

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State College, PA 16801

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