Human Rights Watch estimates that each week around 179,000 older people in nursing homes are given antipsychotic drugs without an appropriate diagnosis. This is a disturbing form of elder abuse that anyone with a loved one in a nursing home should be on the lookout for. As personal injury attorneys we are raising awareness of this type of elder abuse and the harm it causes.
When we think of elder abuse, we often think of financial abuse or the type of physical abuse that leaves bruises and scars. But there are other forms of abuse out there, and over-medicating is one of them. In nursing homes across Texas, powerful medications developed to treat schizophrenia are being handed out like candy by staff members who value their sedative powers.
These drugs are often given to dementia patients who the staff label “difficult.” This is unsurprising considering dementia is associated with agitation, irritability, aggressing, delusions, wandering, disinhibition, and anxiety. However, these powerful drugs have not been found effective at managing these symptoms. What they are good at is putting you into a stupor.
One of the Human Rights Watch investigators who wrote the report referenced above spoke with the family of a woman with dementia who was given an antipsychotic drug every time she was scheduled for a bath (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Her sister complained that the drug didn’t just calm her down, it put her to sleep and caused her to miss lunch and dinner on those days.
The sister had given her consent for staff to use the drug because she feared that her sister would not be bathed at all if the staff did not sedate her. However, once she saw how the drug impacted her sister, she asked the staff to stop giving it to her, fearing that she would starve to death. They only stopped when the woman was placed in hospice care. She died shortly thereafter.
This is abuse. If someone you love is being given medication to calm them down, you need to investigate exactly what is going on and what alternatives are available. If you don’t know where to start, or the nursing home is at all resistant, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced personal injury attorney for assistance.
If you live in the Houston area, the Sherman Law Firm team may be able to assist you. Our firm can help you get your hands on medical records, we can make sure your voice is heard by the nursing home administrators and staff, and if necessary we can file a lawsuit on your behalf or report the facility’s behavior to the appropriate authorities.
Just because your loved one has dementia doesn’t mean his or her life is over. He or she should be treated with dignity and respect, not medicated until all he or she can do is sleep and drool.