Chemical restraints can put older adults at medical risk

On Behalf of | Nov 17, 2021 | nursing home negligence

As people age, cognitive decline is a common occurrence. Some people slowly develop issues with memory and rational thinking. Others may experience a rapid decline because of a medical condition like Alzheimer’s disease.

Older adults dealing with dementia can be particularly difficult for family members to care for, which is why many families turn to nursing home facilities for help. You would think that with secure wards and specialized staff these facilities could safely and appropriately care for those experiencing significant cognitive decline in their golden years.

Unfortunately, many nursing homes don’t keep enough staff on hand and therefore have to engage in inappropriate behaviors to control the actions of certain residents. In some nursing homes, employees may inappropriately and even illegally use chemical restraints to make their jobs a little easier.

What are chemical restraints?

Before modern health care reforms, physically restraining combative, senile or otherwise difficult patients was a common practice. However, legal reforms have set much higher standards for the use of physical restraints because of the psychological and bodily damage that they can cause a vulnerable individual.

Nursing home workers recognize that if family members show up and discover a loved one tied down to a bed that they will likely file a complaint. However, family members arriving to find a loved one peacefully sleeping or incoherent might believe the excuse that they have taken cold medicine or pain relief because they’ve been sore.

Nursing home workers may use a variety of drugs, including psychiatric medications, to keep the residents in their nursing homes more docile. These drugs can cause dangerous side effects and long-term medical harm when misused.

How common is the use of chemical restraints?

Unfortunately, even though those who work in the medical field understand how dangerous some of these medications can be, they may still administer the drugs to the residents in the nursing home without their consent or the consent of their families. In fact, they may do so without an actual medical dust justification for giving the drug.

A scathing report published in 2018 makes it clear that nursing homes frequently misuse prescription drugs to keep their residents compliant and docile. The authors of the report estimated that every week a shocking 179,000 people in nursing homes receive antipsychotic drugs without the necessary diagnosis to prescribe them.

The inappropriate use of chemical restraints is not only a potential violation of someone’s basic medical rights but also a situation that could cause harm to a patient. Learning about various forms of nursing home neglect and abuse will make you a better advocate for your vulnerable, aging loved one.