Chemical Restraints and Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing homes in California continue to receive warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the use of antipsychotic medications given to elderly residents, yet the use of chemical restraints continues. Indeed, according to a recent news story from ABC News 10, nearly fifty nursing homes in our state “rate below average for the use of antipsychotic drugs.” Does the use of chemical restraints constitute nursing home abuse?3056268889_8235784d86

Dementia and Antipsychotic Medications

Many of us know that elderly nursing home residents, particularly those who have been diagnosed with dementia, may be prescribed antipsychotic medications in order to chemically “restrain” them. For those of us with loved ones residing in these facilities, it can be frustrating to learn that off-label drug use is taking place when it’s unnecessary and could lead to serious harms.

In case you didn’t know the frequency of these antipsychotic medications in nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Government Accountability Office report that “one out of every three elderly nursing home residents diagnosed with dementia” ends up being prescribed such drugs.

But these drugs can be deadly, the FDA emphasizes. To be sure, the FDA underlines that they’re “heavy tranquilizers” that “have been linked to heart failure.” As such, the FDA required that a warning label be placed on Haldol, one of the more common antipsychotic drugs prescribed in the nursing-home setting. Why are they still being used if they pose unnecessary risks? And how can we prevent nursing homes from prescribing these medications to our loved ones?

Recent Report of Haldol Death in Sacramento Nursing Home

An investigative report on an elderly resident of a Northern California nursing home suggests that it may be more difficult than we’d like to believe to make sure that older adults—even those without dementia—aren’t prescribed these dangerous medications.

According to ABC News 10, the death of Genine Zizzo, 82, an elderly resident at Roseville Point Health and Wellness Center, illustrates some of the key problems linked to chemical restraints for older adults. Let’s take a look at the facts of the situation. Zizzo was admitted to the facility after suffering a fall at her home. The facility was supposed to provide physical therapy, reported Zizzo’s daughter, Marisa Conover. Yet Zizzo died only 12 days after being admitted to Roseville.

Conover emphasizes that when her mother entered the facility, “she was assessed . . . as a well-developed, well-nourished 82-year-old female complaining of back pain.” Yet less than two weeks later, Zizzo was “being triaged to Kaiser as ill-appearing, obtunded, which is a medical term for being in a vegetative state.” Zizzo slipped from a “vegetative state” into a “coma,” and her death certificate indicates that she died from “multiple organ failures.” Before she was admitted to Roseville, Conover was promised that her mother would not receive any antipsychotic medications. Indeed, Conover recalls, “no antipsychotic drugs were to be used on my mother for any reason or under any conditions.” Yet Conover later learned—after Zizzo’s death—that her Roseville injected her mother with Haldol during her residency.

The Haldol allegedly was used to calm Zizzo, who, according to a nurse’s notes, had been “screaming at the top of her lungs.” As a “quick fix,” Zizzo was prescribed 2 milligrams of Haldol for her “continuous combative behavior and screaming.” Carole Herman, the founder of Foundation Aiding the Elderly, explained that drugs like Haldol are used “to control the patient, to keep them in place.” Indeed, as Herman articulated, “they can’t walk anymore. They’re not mobile, so it’s easier for them to care for them.”

After being given the Haldol, Zizzo “was slumped over in a wheelchair and barely able to tell her what happened.” Conover believes the Haldol caused her mother’s death, and the facility may be liable for nursing home abuse.

Contact a San Diego Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

Do you have concerns about your loved one’s safety in a California nursing home? Do you have questions about the legitimacy of chemical restraints? You should contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your case.

Photo Credit: joshy_in_juneau via Compfight cc

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