Many nursing homes in New York and across the U.S. are abusing their patients through the inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs, according to areport released by Human Rights Watch. To use these drugs as a way to control patients’ behavior is a violation of federal regulations as well as of international human rights laws.
The report estimates that every week in the U.S., more than 179,000 people are abused through overmedication. In many cases, patients are receiving the drugs without prior consent from them or their family. It seems that workers in nursing facilities do this as a way to more easily manage patients, especially those with dementia, whose expressions of pain or distress are interpreted as signs of disruptive behavior. The result is that patients sleep most of the day, lose their personalities, or suffer from fear and anxiety.
Antipsychotic drugs are meant to treat patients with schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions, but the FDA has never approved them for use on dementia patients. They have been known to double the risk for death in elderly patients with dementia. While there was a push to strengthen federal regulations barring the use of antipsychotic drugs without consent and adequate monitoring, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced a moratorium on all such measures back in November 2017.
Using drugs as a “chemical restraint” on nursing home residents is a form of abuse. Nursing home abuse in some cases can be deemed negligence. The family members of residents who have been harmed as a result might want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to see what recourse they might have.