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Chemical restraint — nursing homes’ dark secret

Realizing that a loved one is no longer capable of caring for him or herself is incredibly difficult. You may have struggled with the decision to place your parent, aunt or grandparent in the care of a nursing home but probably came to the conclusion that it was for the best. After all, these facilities are supposed to have trained staff and the right equipment to provide careful and loving care to patients. 

Unfortunately, nursing home abuse is a widespread problem not just in Illinois, but across the rest of the United States. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other disorders that affect the brain are especially at risk. 

What is chemical restraint? 

The days of physically restraining confused or elderly patients are in the past, and you should expect your loved one to be treated with compassion and dignity. However, many nursing homes and residential care facilities are still restraining their patients. Instead of physical ties, they use chemical restraints, usually in the form of antipsychotic drugs for patients who have no history of psychiatric diagnoses. 

Antipsychotic drugs suppress the activities and behaviors of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s, leaving them in almost zombie-like states sometimes. Patients usually do not consent to these treatments either, leaving many confused and unable to function. 

How widespread is the problem? 

The Human Rights Watch recently released a report with some terrifying statistics. Nursing homes across the country chemically restrain an estimated 179,000 patients each week. Although some exceptions apply, the vast majority of victims are elderly and suffering from dementia. The report stated that facilities used chemical restraints to make it easier for their staff. 

Although most families are unaware of this situation, those that know what is going on are often afraid to act. The report found that some families felt forced to agree to the medication because their loved one would be evicted if they did not comply. 

Chemical restraint is an abusive practice 

There are currently 5 million individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease, and current estimates predict that there will be about 16 million by the year 2050. These individuals deserve respect and dignity when receiving care, not abusive methods of restraint. 

If an Illinois nursing home wrongly administered antipsychotic drugs to your loved one, you can help. Through the careful filing of a medical malpractice suit, your loved one can receive just compensation for injuries, including physical, financial and emotional.