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Nursing homes unethically sedating dementia patients

The decision to put your elder parent’s care in the hands of a stranger requires an immense amount of trust—and it is likely not a decision you take lightly. But as your loved one’s memory becomes more compromised, you begin to realize that they can’t take care of themselves anymore—and that with your full-time job, you can’t manage that responsibility either. Finding outside help is the only solution.

So you entrust your parent’s health and wellbeing to the professionals. But what if you came to discover that their treatment wasn’t professional at all—even unethical and dangerous? In today’s post, we discuss an issue of growing concern in the nursing home community: the unauthorized use of antipsychotic drugs on dementia patients.

The practice

Human Rights Watch recently published a study examining the care of dementia patients in nursing homes across the country. It found that a strikingly high number of care providers—who are under strain to care for multiple patients—use administer antipsychotic drugs to disruptive or unruly dementia patients in order to make them more docile. They do this without the permission of the patients or their legal guardians.

Health concerns

Antipsychotic drugs are intended to treat serious psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia. Using such drugs on dementia patients has been shown to double their risk of death. This practice is more common than you might expect—affecting more than 16 percent of dementia patients in New Mexico alone.

Legal issues

This use of antipsychotic drugs constitutes a violation of federal regulations and international human rights law. However, government enforcement of these regulations remains relatively low—and penalties for discovered violations are minimal. Without legal ramifications, nursing homes have little incentive to change.

If you believe your loved one is being improperly medicated, rendering them disengaged or even catatonic, it’s important to take firm legal action. Consulting with an attorney experienced in nursing home abuse is an important first step.

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