Nursing Homes Misuse Antipsychotic Drugs to Control Patients with Dementia

A shocking new report is claiming that nursing homes across the country are misusing antipsychotic drugs to control the behavior of elderly patients with dementia. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the abusive practice remains widespread and is rarely punished, despite violations of federal regulations.

The 157-page report, titled “‘They Want Docile’: How Nursing Homes in the United States Overmedicate People with Dementia,” estimates that over 179,000 people, mostly living with dementia, are given antipsychotic drugs without an appropriate diagnosis every week. In most cases, facilities administer these drugs without obtaining informed consent from residents or their families.

Antipsychotic drugs were developed to treat psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia and depression. Dementia does affect mental health, but it is not a mental illness. Using antipsychotic drugs to treat an elderly person with dementia would be akin to treating a broken bone with a muscle relaxer—it’s just not proper practice.

Using such medications for staff convenience or to discipline residents can amount to a breach of international human rights laws. Unfortunately, the government does little to protect vulnerable residents from such abuse. In fact, the Trump administration is scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of danger. While some have complained that federal inspectors focused excessively on catching wrongdoing rather than helping facilities improve, the lack of fines could become a breeding ground for increased abuse.

HRW’s report is based on over 100 visits to nursing facilities in six states and more than 300 interviews with people living in facilities, staff, long-term care and disability experts, government officials, and advocates.

If you believe your loved one is being abused or neglected, contact our Baltimore nursing home neglect attorneys at Brown & Barron today. Our team of professionals can begin an investigation, preserve evidence, interview witnesses and prepare a strong case to protect the rights of you and your loved one.

Contact us online or by telephone at (410) 698-1717 to speak with an attorney.

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