Drugging Nursing Home Residents.

Understaffed Nursing Homes Utilize Psychotropic Drugs to Subdue Residents

Nursing home residents and their families rely on nursing homes to provide quality care in a safe environment, and nursing homes are statutorily required to protect residents’ rights in this regard. One thing nursings homes cannot do is drug residents into submission by providing them psychotropic medications that will render them zombie-like – resulting in staff not having to “deal” with their legitimate needs and/or behaviors.  Highlighting this, the Office of Inspector General began work in 2011 which raised quality and safety concerns about the high use of one category of psychotropic drug—antipsychotics—by nursing home residents. CMS began monitoring nursing home residents’ use of antipsychotics in 2012, and in May 2021 OIG published a report that determined that CMS’s existing methods for monitoring antipsychotic use by nursing home residents did not always provide complete information. Additionally, congressional stakeholders continue to raise concerns that nursing home residents may be inappropriately prescribed other types of psychotropic drugs and that potentially inappropriate use of those drugs may be going undetected.

Our firm has prosecuted cases exactly like this.  Here is an excerpt from one of our complaints:

Defendants neglected and abused PLAINTIFF by failing to ensure that she was free from unnecessary pain and by failing to ensure that she was being maintained at her highest practicable level of physical, emotional and psychosocial functioning.  Among others, Defendant’s failed to maintain PLAINTIFF at her highest practicable level of physical, emotional and psychosocial functioning when they failed to keep her free from chemical restraints and administered her unnecessary drugs.  Prior to her admission at Defendant’s facility, PLAINTIFF was not taking any psychotropic medications.  By the end of her stay, Defendant’s facility was administering her 3 powerful drugs.  The drugs administered to PLAINTIFF were completely unnecessary and they were excessive in dose, for an excessive duration, without adequate indications for their use and without the facility having first tried specific, non-drug interventions to address PLAINTIFF’S symptoms.  Moreover, Defendant’s failed to adequately monitor the drugs for their effectiveness and any potential negative side effects; including what role they were playing in PLAINTIFF’s failure to maintain adequate fluid and nutritional levels.

This case resulted in the plaintiff being drugged into submission so much so that she stopped eating and drinking and died.

To understand what the problem you have to understand the process. CMS defines psychotropic drugs as any drug that affects brain activities associated with mental processes and behavior. Because they do this to vulnerable elderly residents at nursing homes, the underlying behaviors must be monitored and documented and the effects of the drugs must be monitored and documented.  These medications can be effective in treating a range of conditions but carry a huge risk and must be prescribed appropriately. It is not enough that caregivers at nursing homes have a doctor prescribe the drugs, they have to monitor the effects those prescribed drugs are having on the Sacramento nursing home resident and take steps to make sure that the benefits do not outweigh the costly side effects to the nursing home patient.

In 2019, higher use of psychotropic drugs was associated with nursing homes that have certain characteristics. Nursing homes with lower ratios of registered nurse staff to residents were associated with higher use of psychotropic drugs. Only registered nurses can assess the effects that psychotropic medications are having on nursing home residents. CNAs and other caregivers cannot.  The implication is clear – when you do not employe adequate staff to monitor residents, they associated risk to them being drugged into submission by the nursing home is higher.  Moreover, OIG found that nursing homes with higher percentages of residents with low-income subsidies were also associated with higher use of psychotropic drugs.

If you feel that your loved one was administered drugs in order to get them to comply because the caregiving staff at the nursing home could not handle them, please contact us immediately.

Next: Pt. 2 – Drugging Nursing Home Residents – Sundowning.

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