Understanding when and why chemical restraint is used in nursing homes can help you determine if your loved one is getting the care and treatment they need to thrive.
Understanding Use of Restraints in Nursing Homes
Sometimes in healthcare, restraints are used to limit the independent movement or thought of a patient. Although restraints can be used by well-meaning caretakers, ethical issues can easily arise when restraint is used in a healthcare setting.
Physical restraints are used in anywhere from four to 85 percent of nursing homes, according to the Journal of Medical Ethics. While the practical use of physical restraints is clinically proven, the “psychological and social consequences of restraint use” are not well studied.Physical restraints include any devices used to limit the mobility of a patient, whether for his or her own safety, or for keeping someone else safe. They come in many different forms, and may look like belts, vests, jackets, or other coverings that stop a person from moving a specified body part. They cannot be easily removed.
To put it simply, the goal of using physical restraints is to keep a person in one position, or to stop them from doing something harmful, like self-inflicting injuries or pain, removing necessary medications, falling, or hurting others. In other cases, a nursing home or healthcare provider may choose to subdue a person through the use of chemical restraints.
Using physical restraint on nursing home residents is easily proven harmful, but the use and effects of chemical restraint are not always so obvious. Chemical restraints are typically administered to patients in the form of medication, with the goal of controlling that individual’s behavior. Some nursing home facilities take advantage of antipsychotic medications and sedatives for this reason, in cases where they are otherwise unnecessary. Common examples of popular generic names of medications misused for chemical restraints include:
- Antidepressants: Imipramine, Desipramine, Doxepin, Nortriptyline, Fluoxetine, Sertraline, and Trazodone.
- Anti-anxiety medications: Oxazepam, Alprazolam, Diazepam, Lorezepam, Hydroxyzine, and Busipirone.
- Antipsychotic medications: Haloperidol, Thioridazine, Thiothixene, Chlorpromazine, Risperidone, and Olanzapine.
- Mood Stabilizers: Lithium carbonate and Valproic acid.
- Sedatives: Flurazepam, Temazepam, Lorezepam, Oxazepam, Diphenhydramine, Hydroxyzine, and Chloral hydrate.
This is a non-exhaustive list of medications that could be used as chemical restraints. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 entitles your loved one to freedom from abuse and neglect, including overuse of physical and chemical restraint in nursing homes.
Signs of Abuse Through Chemical Restraints
It is important to consider all reasonable options for your loved one’s care, including encouraging family involvement to monitor for any signs of nursing home abuse. The more you are aware of the usual condition of your loved one, the more likely you are to notice any sudden changes that could indicate abuse or neglect. Potential signs that your loved one is not receiving quality care may include:
- Bruises, marks on the skin, broken bones
- Dirty undergarments and bedding
- Unusually retractive behavior, like increased fear, anxiety, and depression
- Easily or frequently injured
- Bed sores
- Excessive weight loss
Remember that this is a non-exhaustive list of symptoms your loved one may show, according to the Nursing Home Toolkit. It is important to document all changes in behavior or physical appearance, so that filing a claim of nursing home neglect is more straightforward.
Long-Term Consequences of Overusing Restraints
There are many possible side effects of frequent and continued use of physical or chemical restraints. More obvious signs of nursing home abuse or neglect through the overuse of restraints can be serious. Here are some of the potential consequences:
- Unfair Treatment: When an older person with a progressive cognitive disease cannot communicate efficiently, nursing home staff could become frustrated and choose to give them chemical restraints instead of meeting an unmet need.
- Progressively Worse Health Conditions: The FDA has not approved antipsychotic medications for the treatment of age-related diseases like dementia, and mistreating them can make the condition worsen.
- Reduced Quality of Life: Our elders are entitled to life with dignity while in the care of nursing home staff, and using chemical restraints contradicts that
- Increased Risk of Death: According to one report on U.S. nursing homes, someone who is inappropriately administered antipsychotic medications doubles the risk of death for people with dementia.
If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you may want to consider taking legal action against the care facility.
Courses of Action for Chemical Restraint Claims
If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of overuse of chemical restraints, you may have a nursing home abuse or neglect case. First, determine if your loved one’s behavior is related to a chronic condition or the status of the care they receive. Collect as much evidence as possible.
If your loved one’s unusual symptoms cannot be explained by any chronic health condition, it is more likely that they are suffering from abuse in a nursing home. Have a lawyer review your case, and decide the next best course of action for you and your loved one when you call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 842-6336.