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Is the nursing home chemically restraining your parent?

If your parent resides in a Mississippi nursing home because (s)he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or some other type of mental disability, you likely live with the nagging doubt and worry that (s)he may not receive the care (s)he needs and to which (s)he is entitled. This does not make you a worrywart. It makes you a concerned son or daughter who loves his or her parent.

Sadly, you may have legitimate reasons to worry. A recent Human Rights Watch investigation revealed that nursing homes nationwide often give antipsychotic drugs to patients who have no need of them, but who the nursing homes desire to make easier to manage. Many times the patients have no idea that they are being drugged, and they certainly do not consent to it.

Investigation findings

After investigating drug abuse in 15,600 nursing homes across the country, Human Rights Watch released a massive 157-page report of its shocking findings. Of the approximately 1.1 million elderly people residing in these nursing homes, more than 179,000 of them, or about 16 percent, routinely received antipsychotic drugs even though no physician had ever diagnosed them with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or any other condition or disease for which doctors prescribe antipsychotic drugs.

In some nursing homes, fully 30 percent of the patients, many suffering from dementia, received such drugs. Staff personnel freely admitted that dosing these patients with Haloperidol, Risperidone, Seroquel and other antipsychotic drugs controlled their often noisy and/or combative behaviors. Elder rights advocates, however, call these drugs chemical restraints.

Federal regulations

Nursing home residents have strong legal protections via The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. However, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seldom enforce the NHRA’s regulations pertaining to antipsychotic drugs. Between 2014 and 2017, for instance, the CMMS issued only 7,039 citations related to nursing home drug misusage. As if this were not bad enough, it determined that 97 percent of the violations resulted in “no actual harm.” Consequently, none of the cited nursing homes paid the “mandatory” financial penalties set forth in the NHRA.

Despite the fact that federal regulations ban the use of antipsychotic drugs in patients whose illnesses and/or conditions contraindicate them, and mandate proper monitoring of all patients receiving them, the CMMS announced in November of 2016 that it placed a moratorium on these regulations. As for dementia, not only has the Food and Drug Administration never approved antipsychotic drugs for patients suffering from this disease, it also requires manufacturers of these drugs to put a “black box” warning on them concerning their risks and the fact that giving them to dementia patients nearly doubles their risk of death.

If you have any reason to believe that your parent’s nursing home is dosing him or her with antipsychotic drugs so as to control his or her behavior, you may be able to sue the nursing home for abusing and neglecting your parent.

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