When we place our elders in the care of assisted living and long-term care facilities, we have certain reasonable expectations. Not only do we seek to have them receive the care and treatment they need without neglect or abuse, but we also expect them to not receive anything that would hinder a long, fulfilling life.
Recent reports, however, show that many facilities across the nation are giving elders inappropriate medications as a form of chemical restraint.
In October, CNN released the results of an investigation which showed that the drug Nuedexta was "being misused and over-prescribed in nursing homes." Beyond that, Fox10 reports that Human Rights Watch has released a 157-page report about over-medication of patients. The report shows that, in nursing facilities across the nation, an estimated 179,000 patients are given anti-psychotic medication weekly without a relevant diagnosis. Most of the patients receiving these medications suffer from dementia.
The drugs in question have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat dementia or dementia-related psychosis. In fact, these drugs not only fail to help elderly patients with dementia, but have been shown to cause problems in the nervous system, low blood pressure, high blood sugar, blood clots, and can even double the risk of death, among other side effects.
According to families interviewed for the report, the nursing homes in many cases either failed to present the risks or led the families to believe the drugs were necessary for the elder's continued residence in the home. Some of these same families offered testimony that, when taken off the medication, their loved ones regained personality and vitality that was previously believed to be irreparably lost.
There have been improvements in the treatment of elders in long-term care in recent years. Beginning with the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, the government has been under obligation to protect the rights of elders and to monitor the use of anti-psychotic drugs. Knowledge of abuse of anti-psychotic drugs led to the creation of the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes in 2012, established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Problems have arisen due to limited enforcement of these laws; while over 7,000 citations were issued over improper drug administration between 2014 and mid-2017, there were few penalties issued that were sufficient to make real change.
There are ways, then, that the government could change the way elders are treated, and they are making strides in that direction. Still, the goal needs to be for every resident of long-term care facilities to receive safe and proper care, and when that doesn't happen, families have a right and responsibility to hold those facilities accountable.
If you suspect that a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, contact us immediately to pursue your options.