When your mother started having trouble remembering her address and her late husband’s name, you realized she couldn’t live on her own anymore. It was time to find her the support she needed. So you researched all of the nursing homes and assisted living facilities in your area, and you moved her into an apartment with a comprehensive dementia treatment program.
Shortly after her move, however, you noticed a sharp decline in her cognition. Previously, your mom had been forgetful, but she was always her same, vibrant self. But when you visit her now, she’s often barely responsive-even catatonic. Imagine discovering that this behavior is not a natural progression of her disease-but rather the result of highly sedative drugs.
Medication in lieu of care
The use of antipsychotic drugs on dementia patients in nursing homes is becoming an increasingly common problem across the country. A recent study conducted by Human Rights Watch found that a growing number of caregivers-overworked with multiple patients-have begun drugging disruptive patients to make them more docile. In addition to posing serious ethical and legal concerns, this practice also puts the health of vulnerable dementia patients at risk.
Antipsychotics are a class of tranquilizer drugs used to treat psychosis-such as hallucinations or paranoia associated with schizophrenia. Using such drugs for the purpose of sedating dementia patients is dangerous-increasing their risk of death two-fold. However, an alarming 16 percent of dementia patients in New Mexico are treated in this way-without notification or consent of either the patients or their legal guardians.
The above practice is a breach of international human rights law as well as federal regulations. Unfortunately, enforcement of such regulations remains relatively low, and violations are often met with a slap on the wrist. Therefore, pursuing individual lawsuits against nursing homes is often one of the best methods of effecting change.
If your loved one is being treated inappropriately in a nursing home, it’s up to you to advocate for their fair treatment. Consulting with an experienced elder abuse attorney about your legal recourse is an important first step.