Anti-Psychotics as Chemical Restraints in Nursing Homes

Posted on: December 9th, 2014 by Mark R. Friedman

“Chemical restraints” – the use of anti-psychotics in nursing homes to control resident behavior – may be dangerous, illegal, and widespread.

Today, NPR covered one family’s experience with chemical restraints in a nursing home. The practice involves facility doctors prescribing anti-psychotic drugs to sedate residents who create problems for the facility due to Alzheimer’s disesase, vascular dementia or other illnesses that affect behavior.

Many anti-psychotic drugs are not intended for use with dementia patients, but they can make unruly nursing home residents more pliable and easier for staff to manage. However, blunting the senses with anti-psychotic drugs can put residents at greater risk of injurious falls and bone fractures, and exacerbate health problems. And excessive anti-psychotic use can dull emotions, sap away personality and put the resident into a “stupor.”

The use of anti-psychotics as chemical restraints, without medical need and for the convenience of staff, is illegal under federal regulations. But according to a government investigation, questionable anti-psychotic use is widespread in nursing homes [link] across the country.

The NPR story linked above includes a tool that it says was drawn from data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Using the tool, you can look up data on the percentage of residents at a nursing home who receive anti-psychotic medication, and how that percentage compares to the state and national average. The New Jersey rate of 14.9% is lower than the national average of 19%.

It’s cliche to point out that in the United States we have an aging population. But as more people check their parents and spouses into nursing homes and enter facilities themselves, I believe the use of chemical restrains will have to recede. It’s a nightmarish practice, and as more people experience it and a brighter spotlight is shone, families won’t stand for it.

If you believe a facility may be using chemical restraints by prescribing anti-psychotic drugs inappropriately to your loved one, you should know about your rights and how to enforce them. FriedmanLaw is here to help; call or email us today.

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