Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect remains a problem in the U.S. If your parents reside in one, this puts you in the unenviable position of acting as their watchdog, always alert to the possibility that all may not be what it seems regarding their care.
In a nationwide nursing home survey, Human Rights Watch discovered that upwards of 30% of them illegally dose their patients with antipsychotic drugs such as the following:
Why do so many nursing homes engage in this illegal practice? Because the dosed patients, most of whom suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, etc., often behave erratically or even violently. Keeping them sedated makes it easier for nursing home staff to control them. Advocates for the elderly coined the term “chemical restraints” to describe the practice.
Keep in mind that no doctor ever prescribed these or any other antipsychotic drugs for the affected patients. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration forbids their usage in elderly patients suffering from these types of diseases.
Poor government oversight
The Human Rights Watch survey also discovered another troubling fact. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency tasked with enforcing the provisions of the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, does not do its job very well. For instance, it issued only 7,029 citations over a recent 4-year period to nursing homes for illegally drugging their patients. Furthermore, it failed to collect 97% of the fines, ostensibly mandatory in such situations. As its reason, it stated that “no actual harm” came to these patients by virtue of the nursing homes’ actions.