According to the Food and Drug Administration, the use of anti-psychotics to “control” nursing home patients is far from uncommon. The FDA estimates that roughly 15,000 nursing home patients die each year as result of unnecessary--and unprescribed--anti-psychotics.
Such practices, called “chemical restraints,” are illegal, but they are still rampant in the nursing home industry. Sylvia Taylor Stein of the Long Term Care Services of Ventura County ombudsman program reported Thursday that about 25 percent of the residents in California's nursing homes are given antipsychotic drugs, calling attention to the abuse epidemic in a statewide symposium.
The Oxnard conference, called "Toxic Medicine,"was co-organized by and the Long Term Care Services of Ventura County and the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, and included several assisted-living administrators, nursing home staff and supervisors, elder abuse lawyers and state licensing agencies.
Speakers said that these drugs are given in nursing home facilities for dementia, but are administered without the informed consent of residents and are used as a restraint rather than to treat psychiatric conditions. The drugs are regularly given by caretakers without any sort of approval, and can double the risk of death for seniors and cause side effects ranging from stroke to delirium.
Attendees believe that there are several reasons this abuse continues. One contributing factor is that staff shortages make it nearly impossible for employees to properly care for patients. Another is that many doctors have a drug-first mentality when it comes to long-term care.
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