The use of chemical restraints as a form of nursing home abuse is so pervasive and so dangerous that Human Rights Watch has begun sitting up and taking notice. As noted, the inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs in older people with dementia can have debilitating side effects that nearly doubles the risk of death.
The New York Times even reported on doctors who were willing to issue a phony diagnosis just to justify the use of these drugs. The investigation found at least 21% of nursing home residents are on antipsychotic drugs. The schizophrenia diagnosis these drugs are prescribed to address only afflicts roughly one in 150 people, and usually afflicts patients before they turn 40, not late in life.
What are the effects of chemical restraints?
Chemical restraints can be extremely dangerous. They can cause any of the following side effects:
- Malnutrition thanks to excessive sleeping and lethargy
- Increased disorientation and confusion
- A decrease in the ability to engage in the activities of daily living
- Loss of autonomy
- Bed sores
- Loss of muscle function
- Increases in bone fragility
- Falls leading to fractures
- Stroke risk
Often these drugs are administered without informed consent. Some chemical restraints are even slipped into patient food, and remain undocumented in their treatment reports.
Why do nursing homes use chemical restraints?
Often, nursing homes use chemical restraints to make up for a lack of staff members. Sometimes they’re given to just keep the residents quiet and compliant.
Unfortunately for nursing homes, and fortunately for everyone who wants to see elderly people happy and safe, the law does not recognize this as a legal or reasonable use of chemical restraints.
What are the laws governing the use of chemical restraints?
Under federal law, nursing homes are prohibited from using chemical restraints for the sake of staff convenience, discipline, or for other, non-medical reasons. They may be used only when the patient’s behavior put themselves, other residents, or staff members in danger.
Under the New York Codes Section 415.4 nursing homes must assure that the resident is free from any psychotropic drug administered for purposes of discipline or convenience, and are not required to treat the resident’s medical conditions or symptoms and are used only to to protect the health and safety of the resident and to assist the resident to attain and maintain optimum levels of physical and emotional functioning.
If the nursing home taking care of your loved one violates these laws and your loved one suffers from harm as a result, you have excellent grounds to pursue a personal injury case on their behalf.
What are the signs that your loved one may be a victim of chemical restraint abuse?
Look for changes in your loved one’s behavior and ability to communicate. Your loved one may be lethargic or sleep a lot more. They may have trouble moving, and may fall more. They may also struggle to think or remember information.
You can report elder abuse to Adult Protective Services. You should also reach out to an attorney right away. We’ll demand documentation of your loved one’s treatment plan and gather other important evidence that can help prove your loved one is being abused.
Obviously you’ll also want to take steps to have your loved one brought to a safer facility or placed under better care.
Compensation in Nursing Home Abuse Cases
Your loved one can receive compensation for medical bills incurred while attempting to solve problems brought on by nursing home abuse, punitive damages for pain and suffering, and other expenses as needed. This money could go towards securing better care for your loved one.
If your loved one dies while suffering from abuse then you can bring a wrongful death suit which can cover medical expenses incurred prior to your loved one’s death, funeral expenses, and bereavement expenses.
Specific amounts will vary from case to case.
Get Help Today
You have just three years to bring forth a nursing home abuse case, and waiting rarely helps. The longer you wait, the more evidence tends to disappear.
Reach out to a personal injury firm like ours as soon as you know you have a problem. You can schedule a free consultation with us and we’ll look over all the facts of your case. We’ll tell you if we think you have strong grounds to sue your loved one’s nursing home.
Contact us to get started today.