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  • Writer's pictureLeitner Varughese Warywoda

Chemical Restraints on the Elderly a Form of Nursing Home Abuse

When family or loved ones find it hard to take care of their elderly’s needs, nursing homes are often seen as a solution to their problems. However, the sad truth is that this safety net can put their loved ones at risk of abuse or negligence. One form of abuse that frequently occurs in nursing homes is the use of chemical restraints.

If you suspect that the nursing home and its staff used chemical restraints on your loved one, contact Leitner Varughese PLLC. Our New York nursing home injury lawyers can help you investigate your concerns and find proof to hold the facility accountable.

What are Chemical Restraints?

Chemical restraints refer to the use of medication to restrict the freedom of movement or behavior of a patient. These drugs aim to control their behavior or make them sedated instead of administering care and attention to them.

When administered without a therapeutic value, they become a dangerous form of restraint. They are often used to control elderly patients who have dementia or other mental illnesses, as they tend to wander around and may be difficult to handle.

Fact: According to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the National Library of Medicine, the prevalence of physical and chemical restraints in residential aged care facilities during the studied period was 33% and 32%, respectively.

Drugs Used for Chemical Restraint on Elderly

Antipsychotic drugs are the most common medication used for chemical restraint in elderly patients. They include risperidone, quetiapine, aripiprazole, and olanzapine. However, these drugs have not been approved for use in elderly patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Moreover, some nursing homes also use benzodiazepines, such as Lorazepam and Diazepam, to restrain elderly patients.

The Harmful Effects of Chemical Restraints

Using chemical restraints on elderly patients can result in dangerous outcomes. These drugs have powerful side effects that can cause more harm than good. Such side effects include sedation, dizziness, and ataxia, leading to falls, fractures, and head injuries.

Moreover, antipsychotic drugs have also been linked to an increased risk of stroke, sudden death, and other severe medical conditions. Sedation caused by these drugs results in a shorter lifespan and a lower quality of life for the elderly patients restrained with them.

Nursing homes should enact policies that prohibit the use of chemical restraints without therapeutic rationale. In addition, nursing home staff must be trained and equipped with the right skills to care for elderly patients without resorting to chemical restraints.

Are Chemical Restraints Nursing Home Abuse?

Yes, using chemical restraints on elderly patients without a therapeutic rationale constituted nursing home abuse. Unlike other types of restraints, such as physical restraints, chemical restraints leave no visible evidence of abuse.

The use of chemical restraints is not a substitute for providing care and attention to elderly patients. It is a way of controlling them and is a severe form of elder abuse. Nursing home staff and management must ensure that these drugs are only used for therapeutic reasons and in consultation with residents’ families.

Speak With a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

The use of chemical restraints on elderly patients in nursing homes is a form of abuse that needs to be taken seriously. Using these drugs results in severe harm that can worsen patient outcomes, shorten lifespans, and lower their quality of life. If you suspect that chemical restraints were used on your loved one in a nursing home, contact Leitner Varughese PLLC to get legal help. Call 212-671-1110 to schedule a free case review.

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