If your loved one is in a fragile state and needs nursing home care, you place your trust in the administrators and staff of the facility. You rely on them to provide professional and compassionate care.
But a Human Rights Watch report finds that many U.S. nursing homes are failing in their responsibility. The report states they are overmedicating residents with dementia. According to a CNN article about the report, former administrators admitted to approving the use of antipsychotic drugs for residents who don't need them for any medical condition. They also failed to obtain informed consent or talk to the residents or patients about the risks.
The report, titled "They Want Docile:" How Nursing Homes in the United States Overmedicate People With Dementia, includes alarming comments from residents and former administrators that shed light on this type of nursing home abuse.
"Too many times I'm given too many pills," said one 81-year-old man who received antipsychotic drugs in a Texas facility. "They get me so I can't think."
A social worker who worked at a nursing home said the facilities dispense drugs to deal with "behaviors" such as someone crying out "help me."
"The nursing homes don't want behaviors. They want docile," the social worker said, according to the report.
On average, nursing home facilities administer antipsychotic medications to more than 179,000 people who don't need them for any medical condition, according to the report. Most of the people who receive these drugs have Alzheimer's disease or some other type of dementia.
But the report reveals that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration never approved antipsychotic medications to treat symptoms of dementia and has warned against using the drugs for these symptoms.
Antipsychotic drugs used in nursing homes without consent
Facilities give these drugs to patients without their consent. They are used as a "chemical restraint - for staff convenience or to discipline or punish a resident," the Human Rights Watch report states.
Such use of powerful drugs "could constitute abuse under domestic law and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under international law," according to the report.
In older patients, the use of antipsychotic drugs almost doubles the risk of death, according to studies cited in the Human Rights Watch report.
HRW researchers based their findings on visits to 109 nursing homes in six states between October 2016 and March 2017. They conducted 323 interviews with residents and their families as well as nursing home staff, long-term care and disability experts and others.
The report comes out at a time when the baby boomer generation, which makes up a substantial portion of the U.S. population, is getting older. One in seven Americans, or almost 50 million people, are 65 years old or older. The percentage of older Americans is projected to double by 2060, according to the report.
There are roughly 5 million people with Alzheimer's disease today. That number also is expected to rise in the coming years.
Without question, older people will need quality care in the coming years. Nursing homes must ensure the people in their care are safe and treated with dignity and respect.
If you suspect your loved one was abused or neglected in a nursing home in the Chicago area, you'll need an experienced legal advocate in your corner. Contact us at The Deratany Firm. We offer free and confidential consultations.