Articles Posted in Chemical Restraint

DSC05005Do you know enough about restraints in nursing homes and the importance of restraint-free care? According to a fact sheet from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), we as a society used to believe that the use of restraints was acceptable in nursing homes for elderly adults and those with disabilities. Yet the use of restraints in nursing homes is very dangerous, and it may rise to the level of nursing home abuse. As the fact sheet highlights, restraints “often entail more risks than benefits,” and recent studies “recommend more dignified methods to improve residents’ safety.”

Yet, as the CANHR fact sheet illumines, many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities continue to use unnecessary restraints, putting patients at risk of physical harm. And on the whole, California nursing homes, in particular, may be particularly heavy-handed in their use of unnecessary restraints. The fact sheet notes that “California nursing homes use physical restraints at a rate about fifty percent higher than the rest of the nation.” What else do you need to know about restraints and helping your loved one to obtain restraint-free care in a skilled nursing facility in San Diego?

California and Federal Law Prohibits Unnecessary Restraints

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.

The family of an 84-year-old nursing home resident was stunned to learn the cause of their father’s death – an overdose of morphine. They were doubly stunned when then also learned that there was no order by a physician prescribing the drug.

The case is the focus of a criminal prosecution of the nursing home’s director of nursing, Penny Whitlock, who faces charges of criminal elder neglect for allowing an employee at Woodstock Residence Nursing Home to overmedicate nursing home patients with morphine. According to reports, it was common knowledge that Whitlock was administering morphine without a doctor’s consent, and was even warned by other employees about the risks, but continued the practice, which is suspected to have contributed to several other deaths.

Whitlock faces three years in prison.

San Diego’s 10News I-Team has conducted an investigation into what it is calling the chemical restraint of elderly residents of nursing homes. That is, using anti-psychotic drugs not necessarily for their prescribed use, but to control behavior in residents who otherwise wouldn’t be candidates for the drugs.

The investigation profiles the family of Dr. Keith Blair, a retired dentist, who died at age 86 after a stay at Arbor Hills Nursing Center in La Mesa. The family contends Dr. Blair’s death was expedited by the use of the anti-psychotic drugs Risperdal and Haldol that were given without consent. Both drugs contain warnings that state the drugs are “associated with an increased risk of mortality in elderly patients.”

Upon one visit to the nursing home to see her father, Marian Hollingsworth told the I-Team that her father was “completely out of it. I shook him on the bed, I hollered his name. I asked the nurse what was going on. I couldn’t wake him up. She said, ‘Oh, he was sleepy last night.'”