Sometimes when we talk about improper restraints involving nursing home patients, people’s thoughts immediately go to images of leather straps and people being left unattended for hours.
And make no mistake – that happens.
But our Boca Raton nursing home abuse lawyers know what is far more common is chemical restraint. This is essentially the overmedication of a patient in order to make him or her more compliant, easier to deal with. Not only is it unethical and illegal, it can be deadly.
That was the case for a woman in Chicago, who died in January 2011. In a civil lawsuit recently filed by her family, her doctors are accused of prescribing medication combinations and doses that were inappropriate and which directly led to her death. The family further posits that the nursing home was negligent in administering those incorrect doses to their mother, and that the nurses on staff failed to properly monitor her condition.
Her family is seeking a minimum of $200,000.
We can’t say whether this case would qualify specifically as “chemical restraint,” and sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between this and an overdose. In either case, the nursing home and doctors may be negligent.
Chemical restraint cases often involve dementia patients, as did the recent criminal case out of California. The state attorney general there referred to what occurred as “convenience drugging” in a release announcing the three-year prison sentence received by the director of nursing at a facility in Kern County.
According to the release, nearly two dozen elderly residents were given psychotropic drugs at the behest of the nursing director, not for therapeutic reasons, but rather to “quiet and control them for the convenience of the staff.” These were all Alzheimer or dementia patients who were deemed particularly prone to wandering, noisy, argumentative or frequently complained.
As a result, all 23 suffered some negative effect as a result, and in three cases, it was determined, their deaths were hastened.
It took years for the investigation to yield results, as it first began in 2007 following an ombudsman complaint after he personally witnessed a patient being forcibly held down and injected with a psychotropic drug. Had that not occurred, we might never know about any of it.
Although these cases are incredibly common, they are rarely pursued criminally, so the case out of California really sets a good benchmark.
Still, this is by no means a new issue. The New York Times ran an article back in 2008, detailing this ongoing and pervasive problem. That coverage began with the daughter of an 88-year-old woman believing she was losing her mom to dementia. As it turned out, she was losing her to overmedication.
The elderly Bronx woman was plagued with confusion and anxiety as a result of her condition. Doctors at the nursing home prescribed her a mix of antipsychotics and sedatives. Her condition worsened, and she began to suffer vocal tics and twitching. She only improved when her daughter recognized what was happening and demanded she go off them.
Back when that article was written, sales of newer antipsychotics like Zyprexa, Seroquel and Risperdal had shot up from $4 billion in sales in 2000 to more than $13 billion in 2007 – and it’s only continued to grow, in big part due to use in nursing homes.
In fact, researchers have estimated that about one-third of all nursing home patients are given antipsychotic drugs, and this is despite the fact that studies have shown that the vast majority of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients do not benefit from their use.
Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Nursing home blamed in wrongful death lawsuit, Jan. 2, 2013, By Jennifer Delgado, Chicago Tribune
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Report: Bed Rails Can Be Fatal for Elderly, Jan. 16, 2013, Boca Raton Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog