Chemical Restraint and the Elderly

Do you know what chemical restraint is? When persons are given psychotropic drugs, often improperly and without consent in order to quiet or sedate them, such action is labeled “chemical restraint.” Even patients with issues such as Alzheimer’s disease should not be dosed with psychotropic drugs; it is considered medically inappropriate.

While it is claimed that the practice is for the benefit of the patient, overmedicating the elderly continues to be a problem in this country. Some believe it is often done for the convenience of nursing home staff. Psychotropic drugs—antidepressants, antipsychotics, and antianxiety drugs—are being doled out to persons over 65 at much higher rates than to those under 65. In many situations, these seniors do not have mental issues that are appropriate for the drugs administered. In some cases, their problems could be eased with talk therapy instead of heavy-duty pharmaceuticals.

Death in Greeneville, Tennessee

The family of Bobby Glenn Tweed believes that he was inappropriately administered the psychotropic drugs that allegedly led to his death. In their suit, it is alleged that Tweed had no mental illness, yet he was given mental-illness drugs during 2013 at Takoma Regional Hospital and at Life Care Center of Greeneville, TN, because of his dementia and Alzheimer’s. The drugs in question were Depakote, Geodon, and Seroquel, all of which are exceptionally powerful antipsychotics and anti-seizure medications, but inappropriate for anyone with various forms of dementia. Nor, claims the family, was there any informed consent regarding giving Tweed the drugs. The law requires informed consent in many cases, but the patient with dementia is usually not legally able to provide such consent, and in this case the family claims they were not contacted for such consent.

But it’s not only a question of the inappropriateness of the drugs administered to Tweed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have required “black box” warnings for Geodon and Seroquel with regard to elderly patients with dementia, because the drugs have been demonstrated to increase the risk of death in such persons. Depakote is commonly given as an anti-seizure drug to those with epilepsy, as well as to those with acute mania due to bipolar disorder—but not to those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. In fact, none of the drugs administered to Tweed are approved by the FDA for Alzheimer’s or dementia.

New Study: Reduce the Usage of Psychotropics

Results published in the April 17, 2017, edition of JAMA Internal Medicine demonstrated that the use of psychotropic drugs among elderly patients could be reduced when nursing home staff was trained to recognize certain behaviors among those suffering from various forms of dementia. The study’s leader, Jennifer Tija, MD, MSCE, wrote, “This intervention focused on treating the residents as human beings with needs, not as patients with problems. We don’t medicate babies when they cry or act out, because we assume that they have a need that we need to address. However, when people with dementia are unable to communicate, the current approach medicates them when they have undesirable behaviors.”

The study’s program, known as OASIS, cut the use of antipsychotic drugs by 7 percent, from 34 to 27 percent, in 93 Massachusetts nursing homes over nine months. In the study, it was requested that nursing staff reduce their use of such drugs by creating care plans that focused on what patients could do rather than on what they couldn’t do. It is believed that OASIS not only reduces the risks of death from psychotropics, but that it also is more effective in caring for those with dementia in the long run.

If you have a loved one residing in a nursing home, especially if they suffer from Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, the inappropriate use of chemical restraints by way of psychotropic drugs is one situation you should remain well aware of.

Securing justice for hardworking people and families since 1959.

When someone you love has been hurt, it can feel like nothing will ever be right or fair again. When this happens, the South Carolina nursing home injury lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm can review your legal options and work with you to determine the most appropriate next step.

Many South Carolina nursing home facilities are part of a larger chain, complete with its own legal department. The nursing home’s lawyers may try to dispute claims, but we have represented victims in nursing homes. We understand how to deal with negligent facilities and the nursing home attorneys who represent them. While a lawsuit cannot restore someone’s health or well-being, a South Carolina nursing home claim can help recover the large sums spent on a negligent nursing home, as well as medical bills created by the wrongdoers. You may also be able to hold accountable those who caused the pain and suffering.

For a free consultation, call our Columbia nursing home injury attorneys today at 1-803-454-1200, or use our online contact form.